Park City Museum exhibit is ‘Patient No More’￼
Display spotlights landmark 1977 protest
‘Patient No More: People with Disabilities Securing Civil Rights’
- When: Showing through April 16
- Where: Park City Museum, 528 Main St.
- Phone: 435-649-7457
- Web: parkcityhistory.org
Lecture about patient disability rights by Emily Beitiks, Paul K. Longmore Institute of Disability interim director
- When: 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 29
- Where: Zoom
- Cost: free
- Registration: parkcityhistory.org/history-speaks-lectures/
A 2020 Sundance Film Festival film inspired Courtney Titus to book a new traveling exhibit at the Park City Museum.
The curator of collections and exhibits had heard about James Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham’s “Crip Camp,” winner ofthe festival’s Audience Award for U.S. Documentary. It tells a portion of the story found in the “Patient No More: People with Disabilities Securing Civil Rights” exhibit that is on display at the museum through April 16.
“Crip Camp” is about a summer camp for teenagers with disabilities in the early 1970s, and spotlights the campers who became activists in the fight for securing civil rights for those with disabilities, according to Titus.
“Hearing about the film and reading about it sparked my interest in this topic, because it was something that I didn’t know about before,” she said. “So, when I saw this exhibit, and discovered it was traveling through Exhibit Envoy, I was excited to bring it here.”
“Patient No More: People with Disabilities Securing Civil Rights,” continues the story of some of those campers in what Titus said is “a little-known story in American history.”
“These activists fought for their rights during a 26-day protest and sit-in that started on April 5, 1977, in San Francisco,” she said.
The protest surrounded a small paragraph, called Section 504, of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Titus said.
“Section 504 says federally funded programs and facilities could not discriminate against people with disabilities,” she said. “The bigger law was passed in 1973, but the regulations had still not been signed four years later. And people were understandably upset.”
Activists all around the country organized protests and demonstrations outside of their health education and welfare offices, Titus said.
“They actually stormed the buildings in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., and held a sit-in,” she said. “They were not going to leave until the 504 had been signed.”
While the D.C. sit-in lasted only one night, because they couldn’t get food, the San Francisco lasted 26 days, Titus said.
“That is a long time for anybody, but if you think about special accommodations that people with disabilities need — medication, care and, of course, food — it was a feat that they stayed for so long,” she said.
More than 100 people participated in the San Francisco sit-in, and some lost their jobs, relationships and risked their health, Titus said.
“But they did have a strong support system,” she said. “One of the reasons why they were able to stay so long in San Francisco was because the Black Panthers provided hot meals for them every day, and the Salvation Army provided mattresses.”
The protestors in San Francisco were also more organized, according to Titus.
“Inside the building they formed committees to get the word out to the press and the outside world,” she said. “Even when their lines of communications, which were mostly pay phones, were shut off, they had deaf protesters who communicated via sign languages through the windows.”
A video accompanyingthe exhibit also talks of hunger strikes and how the sit-in protestors could keep their medications cool, Titus said.
“Since they didn’t have a refrigerator accessible to them, they rigged one up,” she said. “They placed a plastic tarp over an air conditioner, so they could put the medicine under it to keep them cold.”
The group ultimately sent a delegation to Washington, D.C., to meet with legislators, and, finally, on April 28, Heath, Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph Califano signed the regulations, Titus said.
“The people who were still sitting in the federal building in San Francisco decided to stay two more days until the delegation returned from D.C., so they could all leave together and celebrate,” she said.
Section 504 was the template for the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which, like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, makes discrimination based on race, religion, sex, or national origin illegal. The act has been updated to include gender.
The ADA also requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, and imposes accessibility requirements on public accommodations, Titus said.
“So, that means buildings have to provide access — ramps, elevators — to name a few things,” she said. “The ADA affects everyone, and it has made all of our lives better.”
The exhibit also has interactive elements — two braille binders, two MP3 players containing audience descriptions and narration and a selfie station, according to Titus.
“The MP3 players can be checked out at the front desk, and the selfie station gives people a chance to take a photo of themselves and write what makes them ‘patient no more’ in this day and age,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be disability related. It can be any cause they think is worth fighting for.”
Titus has been looking forward to bringing the exhibit for over a year.
It is presented by the Paul K. Longmore Institute of Disability at San Francisco State University, whichpromotes people with disabilities’ strength, ingenuity, and originality to transform assumptions about disability. The exhibit is also made possible withsupport by California Humanities and taken on the road by Exhibit Envoy.
“This story is United States history,” Titus said. “It’s Utah history. It’s Park City history, and I think more people should hear about it.”
Presentation gets behind the scenes of a historic protest
Museum event ties into ‘Patient No More’ exhibit.
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