Documentary on October 27 chronicles the History of America’s Disability Rights Movement

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Photo to two leaders in the disability rights movement -- Judith Heumann and Marca Bristo.
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Capitol Crawl photo by Tom Olin
LIVES WORTH LIVING chronicles the History of America’s Disability Rights Movement
Documentary includes Marca Bristo, Chicagoan with disability who chaired NCD

Film premiers on Independent Lens –
Thursday, October 27 at 10 PM on WTTW Channel 11

Lives Worth Living is the first television history of the decades-long struggle of Americans with disabilities for equal rights. Produced and directed by Eric Neudel, the documentary will air as part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The documentary looks into a world inhabited by people determined to live their lives like everyone else, and chronicles a past when, because of physical, program, and social inaccessibility, millions of Americans lived without access to schools, employment, apartment buildings, and public transportation. Lives Worth Living premieres on the Emmy® Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens, on Thursday, October 27, 2011. In Chicago, the documentary will air at 10 p.m. on WTTW Chicago.

The documentary features Access Living President and CEO Marca Bristo. In the 1980’s, Bristo played a key role in the drafting and passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, one of the most transformative pieces of civil rights legislation in American history. In 1994, President Clinton appointed Bristo to head the National Council on Disability, which she chaired until 2002. Today, she serves as Vice President of North America for Rehabilitation International and as President of the United States International Council on Disabilities, through which she is leading a campaign to promote the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities in the United States.

“Lives Worth Living gives an inside look at the experience of living with a disability in America and of people with disabilities’ struggle for justice and equality,” said Bristo. “The film introduces viewers to incredible leaders who have led a quiet revolution that has made immense changes in society. I am so proud to have worked alongside them and am thrilled that a national audience will hear our story. So often, disability is out of sight and out of mind until it happens to someone we love.”

On Thursday, October 20, ABC 7 Chicago will run a story during the 11 a.m. news hours about Lives Worth Living in advance of the premiere. The advance story includes an interview with Bristo.


Lives Worth Living follows the disability rights movement from its roots, when veterans with disabilities returned from World War II, to its development in the 1960s and 1970s, when it adopted the tactics of other social movements, to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. The documentary examines how Americans with a wide variety of disabilities united change public perception and policy.

To learn more about the film, visit www.pbs.org/independentlens/. Get detailed information on the film, watch preview clips, read an interview with the filmmaker, and explore the subject in depth with links and resources. The site also features a Talkback section, where viewers can share their ideas and opinions.

About the Participants, in Order of Appearance

Fred Fay, early leader in the disability rights movement (1944 – 2011)
Ann Ford, director of the Illinois National Council on Independent Living
Judy Heumann, leading disability rights activist, Co-Founder of World Institute on Disability
Judi Chamberlin, Mental Patients Liberation Front, a movement for the rights and dignity of people with mental illness (1944-2010)
Dr. William Bronston, former staff physician at the notorious Willowbrook State School who was dismissed after agitating for change
Bob Kafka, established ADAPT of Texas, a disability rights advocacy organization
Zona Roberts, counselor, UC Berkeley's Physically Disabled Students’ Program and Center for Independent Living, Berkeley; mother of disability rights pioneer Ed Roberts
Pat Wright, Former Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
John Wodatch, Former Chief, Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U. S. Department of Justice
Jack Duncan, Former Counsel, U.S. House of Representatives
Mary Jane Owen, disability rights activist, philosopher, policy expert, and writer
Marca Bristo, CEO, Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago, former chair of the National Council on Disability, and leader in the disability rights movement
Michael Winter, Former director, Berkeley Center for Independent Living
Lex Frieden, Former director, National Council on the Handicapped (now National Council on Disability)
Dr. I. King Jordan, President Emeritus, Gallaudet University
Jeff Rosen, alumni leader, Gallaudet University
Senator Tom Harkin, (D-Iowa), co-author of the ADA
Bobby Silverstein, Former Chief Counsel, Senate Subcommittee on Disability Policy
Richard Thornburgh, U.S. Attorney General, 1988-1991
Tony Coelho, Former Congressman (D-California), House Majority Whip, 1986-1989, author of the ADA
Justin Dart, leader in the disability rights movement (1930 – 2002)

About the Filmmaker

Eric Neudel (Producer/Director) has produced, directed, and edited numerous award-winning films for public television. His many credits include Eyes on the Prize, AIDS: Chapter One, LBJ Goes to War, Tet 1968, Steps, After the Crash, The Philippines and The US: In Our Image, Body and Soul, and more. He was a visiting senior critic and lecturer in film at Yale University and served as producer, director, and editor for Harvard University’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, and Spectrum Media’s program series on the art and craft of teaching. Neudel was also a photographer and video production consultant, teaching video production to a team working for the Compass Project in Malawi. Photographs from his two years in Malawi were exhibited in the Sandra and Phillip Gordon Gallery at The Boston Arts Academy in October 2007. He also served as story consultant for Row Hard No Excuses, an award-winning documentary about two middle aged American men who set out to cross the Atlantic in a rowboat. Most recently he served as a photographer in Rwanda for The Boston Globe, where he directed, produced, and edited a companion documentary about the Maranyundo Middle School, which was built on the site of one of the worst concentration camps and killing fields in Rwanda.

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