Ariel Adelman on Disability Civil Rights

This week on CounterSpin: There’s an announcement on the New York City subway where a voice chirps: “Attention, everyone! There are 150 accessible subway stations!” One can imagine an alternate world where we’d hear, “Only 150 of New York City’s 472 subway stations are accessible, and that’s a problem!”

But people with disabilities are meant to be grateful, excited even, for whatever access or accommodation is made available for them to participate in daily life. There’s often an implied corollary suggestion that any violation of the rights of disabled people is an individual matter, to be fought over in the courts, rather than something to be acknowledged and addressed societally.

The overarching law we have, the Americans with Disabilities Act, is meant to be proactive; it is, the government website tells us, a law, “not a benefits program.” In reality, though, the ADA still meets resistance, confusion and various combinations thereof, 33 years after its passage. And news media, as a rule, don’t help.

The Supreme Court recently dismissed, but did not do away with, a case that gets at the heart of enforcement of civil rights laws for people with disabilities—though not them alone. Acheson v. Laufer is an under-the-radar case that, our guest says, is “part of a pattern of far-right reactionaries weaponizing the courts to dismantle labor protections, housing rights and health guidelines.”

Ariel Adelman is a disability rights advocate and policy analyst. Her piece, with Hayley Brown, appeared recently on, the website of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. She’ll tell us what’s going on and what’s at stake.

Plus Janine Jackson takes a quick look back at coverage of the racist Charles Stuart murder hoax.

Share This Episode