Ableism, Poverty, and the Under-Celebrated Resistance

Authored by: Sara Lichtenwalter , Christopher Magno

The Routledge Handbook of Poverty in the United States

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415673440
eBook ISBN: 9781315755519
Adobe ISBN: 9781317627401


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Transportation is a gateway to social inclusion and economic opportunities, so it is not surprising that some of the initial struggles for both African Americans and people with disabilities in the United States involved buses. Rosa Parks is rightly heralded as a courageous heroine for refusing to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. However, decades later Ellen Nuzzi, who defied a bus driver’s orders to get herself and her wheelchair off the bus entirely, would be labeled as “selfish” for delaying the other passengers’ New York City commute, her act of resistance fading into obscurity (Johnson, 2003). Ellen Nuzzi, along with others in the Disability Rights Movement, have fallen into what disabilities studies scholars refer to as a “profound historical gap,” a discursive invisibility through which the struggles and successes of Americans with disabilities have remained largely unknown and unheralded (Bell, 2006; Longmore and Umansky, 2001, p.3; Snyder and Mitchell, 2006, p.5). People with disabilities as a group have lagged behind women, and racial and religious minorities, in their struggle for equality. Ms. Parks was jailed in 1955 for defying racial segregation on the bus, yet it was over 20 years later before many people with disabilities could even board the bus (Fleischer and Zames, 2011).

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