Thursday, February 09, 2017

ACLU of Georgia: Disability Rights

This is the sixth and final post in a series of posts about the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia Records, which were processed in 2015 and are now open for research. These records document the ACLU of Georgia's litigation, lobbying, and public education efforts to protect civil liberties for all Georgians. Their work, which began in 1963, involves issues such as freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, due process of law, and opposing discrimination against many groups. This post was written by Adriane Hanson, Digital Curation and Processing Archivist, and Shaniqua Singleton, a student at the UGA School of Law, who was instrumental in processing these papers.

Cover of handbook, "Your Rights in Georgia's
Mental Health Facilities," by the Georgia
Division of Mental Health, undated.
Source: Series II, Box 28, Folder 22.
The disability rights movement has long sought full and equal participation in life for people with disabilities in a wide variety of areas, such as receiving an education, access to public buildings and to homes, being able to use public transportation, and fair treatment in the judicial system, to name a few. The ACLU of Georgia has been actively involved in efforts to end discrimination against people with disabilities on many fronts. They protest the over-representation of people with disabilities in civil and criminal institutions such as nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals, and prisons, which isolate them from society. And they advocate for equal access to jobs, homes, education, healthcare, and families. Ultimately, their goal is for people with disabilities to be "valued, integrated members of the community" and for everyone to understand that "disability is a normal part of life."
Cover of the ACLU's amicus brief
for Olmstead v. L.C. in the U.S.
Supreme Court, 1998.
Source: Series III, Box 83, Folder 4.

One legal case that is well-documented in the records is Hightower v. Ledbetter, a class action suit brought in the 1990s by a group of patients at Central State Hospital, a state-operated mental health facility, challenging the unlawful administration of psychotropic medications without their consent. Under Georgia law, mental health facilities were permitted to administer medications without consent when physicians concluded that refusal would be unsafe to the patient and others. The District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, upheld the state policy, finding that the forced medication did not violate plaintiffs’ substantive and procedural due process rights. The records also include materials related to ACLU's amicus brief in Olmstead v. L.C., a landmark case related to the deinstitutionalization of people with disabilities, and Sierra Club v. Georgia Department of Transportation, challenging Atlanta's regional transportation plan for failing to consider those living with disabilities.

Sticker in support of the Americans with Disabilities Act, undated.
Source: Series II, Box 13, Folder 13.
Pamphlet for The Disability Action
Center of Georgia, ca. 1996.
Source: Series II, Box 13, Folder 13. 
In addition to the case files, the records include subject files on controversies involving people with disabilities, including the passing and implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, the right of people with disabilities to protest, access to public transportation, access to public buildings and the Georgia Dome, abuses at mental institutions and prisons, and education for "special needs" children.

The Russell Library actively collects on disability history in Georgia. For a list of collections, see the Georgia Disability History Archive finding aid. To further these efforts, the Russell Library is an active partner in the Georgia Disability History Alliance.

No comments: