2012  •  

The Disabled & The Cold War: The battle between social welfare and ideological warfare

Lead Presenter:

Between 1950 and 1990 the state allowed vested economic, political, and social interests deter them from earnestly promoting equality for the disabled. The anticommunist hysteria that took hold in America in the aftermath of World War II led to the Vietnam War, citizens suspected of harboring communist sympathies losing their jobs, and a social premium placed on conformity. However, less widely acknowledged is how the Cold War climate created an inhospitable environment to welfare protections for the disabled. An examination of the outcomes of American disability policy between 1945 and 1991 suggests conceptual and practical reasons to consider disability policy a failure in promoting equality for people with different intellectual abilities. This paper shows that the American state has failed to do enough to benefit the differentlyabled as citizens- an identity comprised of their roles as participants in democratic political processes and welfare recipients- and workers. It examines the many ways welfare has failed to promote equality for the disabled and argues that this failure can be attributed to policymakers’ insistence on preserving the existing social and economic order in the context of the Cold War rather than affecting the changes that are necessary to promote equality for citizens with
 ntellectual disabilities. Despite the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, which commentators likened to the fall of the Berlin Wall that occurred a year earlier, prevailing attitudes of intolerance towards disability in American society and the absence of a wholehearted commitment to incur the high financial costs of integration represent two hurdles that remain for policymakers to surmount in order for the differently-abled to realize the benefits of the welfare policy. Since Disability Rights is a mosaic movement, this research focuses on how the American welfare policy has failed those with intellectual disabilities and pervasive developmental disorders, categories that encompass mental retardation and autism respectively, in order to bring into high relief the shortcomings of the state to serve its differently-abled population.