Crip Camp

If you can get access, I highly recommend watching the Netflix original documentary, “Crip Camp.” Brilliant, dazzling, inspirational—it’s the story of a group of teenagers in the late 1960s who find themselves together at a summer camp in the Catskills—with all the promise that camp affords for new friends, new adventures, first romances, and fresh awakenings, as well as for reinvention and personal transformation outside the embrace (suddenly too tight) of family and home. But this camp, officially Camp Jened, is designed specifically for disabled teens, and hence the irreverent renaming: Crip Camp. It’s here that these differently abled young people find each other—wheel chair bound, blind, dealing with the effects of cerebral palsy or spina bifida— discover and then name their collective marginalization in the larger society, and find the courage to demand change. They build a community where everyone has a voice, where each is recognized as fully human (yes, that includes asserting their sexuality), and where they nourish an incipient power that would burst forth a few years later as the Disability Rights Movement. These campers transformed themselves into disability activists fighting for full access to the physical environment and independent living, equal opportunity, and freedom from discrimination, abuse, and neglect. Still too easy to take disabled people for granted, this is a fresh reminder of the power of people to change our world, and the work that remains to be done.

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