Crip Camp: the revolution you never heard about

Catherine Bass, Staff Writer

The first time I watched the Netflix documentary, Crip Camp, it was way past midnight. My neighbors, who refuse to use curtains, had finally turned their lights out, which meant it was finally pitch black. I had originally stayed up to finish a project, which I had finished a couple hours ago, and saw that Crip Camp was premiering on Netflix, and I said “Why not? I’m already up.” So, a few hours later, I watched Crip Camp, a movie I thought was exclusively about Camp Jened- a camp exclusively for disabled people where they could go and just be themselves- due to the description. I was wrong. The more I watched, the more I realized what I had missed. This was a story that needed to be heard.

Crip Camp is about more than just Camp Jened, it’s a documentary (directed by James LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham) about what happened after Camp Jened to all those campers and counselors that had to go back to their normal lives which were, suffice to say, less than accessible. And given that Camp Jened happened only in the summer, the campers and counselors (among others) decided to do something; protest.

One memorable protest included blocking off a four way intersection in New York to stop traffic. Ironically, this protest was less than accessible because the subway didn’t have an elevator, ramp or anything accessible. The director James LeBrecht admits having to haul himself up the stairs of the subway with his wheelchair to get to the protest. Nowadays, there’s usually an elevator or ramp in buildings. (However, the internet needs to still catch up, as some websites don’t always work with assistive technologies according to the National Law Review website).

Fast forward to 1972. Judy Heumann, who had polio as a young child, and has had to use a wheelchair since,  sued the New York Board of Education because they did not allow her to teach. This started Disabled in Action, a group who eventually looked into The Rehabilitation Act of 1972, which contained in it section 504 which promised nondiscrimination under federal grants, which meant that anyone who received federal money- hospitals, education, transportation etc- could not discriminate. 

However, the president of the United States at the time, Richard Nixon, vetoed it due to budget concerns. 

This eventually spurred a sit-in protest of a government building in Berkeley, California, which then sparked a sit-in in Washington, which eventually gave way to section 504 being passed. 

For those who don’t know about section 504- which is not surprising, because it wasn’t taught in the history classes I’ve been in- it basically allows people with any type of disability to get the accommodation they need; whether that be a ramp, or extra time on tests. 

Either way, if you don’t benefit from section 504, someone you know probably does, and it’s all thanks to Camp Jened campers and counselors, whom, before this article, you may have never heard of. So, like with all great essays and history papers, find at least 3 sources; or, in simpler terms, take time to learn about article 504 and how it affects you and others you know; it’s worth your time. 

Rating: 4.8 out of 5, good film quality, and overall message. However, due to its rating (R) on Netflix, the documentary is not available to all audiences.