Fred Pelka’s new book, What Have We Done: An Oral History of the Disability Rights Movement, presents and gives a voice to activists of the disability rights movement from the 1950s to the 1990s. 50 to 60 years ago conditions were grim for people with disabilities. “There were separate schools for children with disabilities, people with mental illness were locked up in facilities more like jails than medical institutions, and using a wheelchair restricted access to most public buildings and transportation.”
Pelka himself is no stranger to the subject of the rights of individuals with disabilities. He has already written a historical account of the disability rights movement for a reference publisher. He has also worked as a “personal care attendant for disabled clients in the Boston area”.
The changes over the years were the culmination of the efforts of activists who slowly built a campaign that eventually gained momentum. Fred Pelka’s book is based on interviews that he had with past activists. It chronicles the personal lives of those who lived with disability in harsh times, how disability eventually came to be seen as a political issue, and finally how these activists fought for full and equal participation in American Society.