DIA In The News
From The New York Times
July 27, 2010
By JAMES ESTRIN
A group of aging folk singers slowly enters a church basement in Manhattan where they are to give a concert. Observing them maneuver to their places behind the microphones — some are blind, others are in wheelchairs, some are accompanied by family members, others by home health aides — it is clear that this concert is going to be a little out of the ordinary.
Members of the audience, many of whom are also disabled, erupt in cheers and whistles as the Disabled In Action (D.I.A.) Singers launch into their anthem,
Oh, crippled in the heart,
Influenced by the songs of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, the D.I.A. Singers provided the soundtrack to their own struggle for equal rights and equal access over the last 35 years. And like their role models, they did more than sing songs. They also took to the barricades.
The group sang its testimony at hearings about public access before the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. They also took over the M.T.A. executive offices with a sit-in. Until you've seen politicians and police captains trying to figure out how to remove dozens of people in wheelchairs, you haven't fully experienced the power of civil disobedience.
Along with other activists around the country, the singers insisted on universal access to streets and buildings, to public transportation, to affordable housing and supportive services.
Their struggle for equal opportunities reached a milestone 20 years ago this week when the Americans With Disabilities Act became law, prohibiting discrimination because of disability in the full and equal use of public accommodations.
Founded in the late 1970s, the D.I.A. Singers performed in nursing homes, at rallies and for several years at the annual Clearwater Festival. They even issued two CDs.
But as they have grown older, and the demonstrations fewer, they've performed less often. The concert in April was billed as a reunion.
Though her comrades in wheelchairs are now mostly in their 60s and 70s, Ms. Emerman said they still have important battles to fight.
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