Evolution of Care [Essay]

Based on a paper titled “Evolution of Care” by Misty Smith. Originally posted in PSY-230 on September 9, 2017, at Southern New Hampshire University.

Evolution of Care

What does it take for someone to be labeled as disabled? According to Michael Hardman, “People who are classically considered disabled tend to have limitations that are severe enough to affect their lives every day” (Hardman 3). However, in the past, many individuals were labeled as disabled when they were, in fact, fully capable of living a full productive life, and as a result, these individuals were sent to institutions where they were locked away and forgotten (1L Media, 2013). For example, in the past women were locked away because of menstrual cycles (Pouba & Tianen, 2006) and children left behind at hospitals because the parents simply could not afford them (1L Media, 2013). However, after a lot of trial and error, today’s disabled individuals have better care, although more improvements can always be made.

In the video ‘Lost in Laconia’ viewers are guided through the history of an asylum for the disabled from the beginning to the end. Coming from the poor houses of the past, New Hampshire built its first state school for the ‘feeble-minded’ in 1903, originally called the New Hampshire School for the Feeble-Minded ( before eventually being renamed to Laconia State School) (1L Media, 2013). However, Laconia was not a place for the disabled to come to live in comfort; in many ways, it was worse than most prisons. The patients at the institution of Laconia and other similar places were locked away and forgotten, many being victims of abuse and even Eugenics. Early views of the disabled included that they were prone to evil and a burden on society, therefore, genetics had to be considered and sterilization was forced upon them without their consent (1L Media, 2013). However, it was not only the public who had a disdain for these poor souls: doctors and government officials alike viewed the disabled as a plague upon mankind, therefore the conditions they were provided were sub-par at best because they did not wish to waste money or resources on their care.

Change to the conditions in the institutions such as Laconia took place over several decades and many lawsuits. Slowly the institutions were closed down or revamped with programs that provided much needed medical therapy for the patients, job training, and educational opportunities. These types of programs, and the lawsuits that paved their way, opened up an entirely new avenue for the disabled in the United States. For example, public schools started programs that would help integrate children with disabilities into the school setting instead of shipping them away from their families. Furthermore, states like Tennessee, for example, opened rehabilitation centers such as the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center in Smyrna, Tennessee, that provides a full range of training for individuals with disabilities to learn how to live full self-supportive lives (TN Department of Human Services, 2017). Federal laws have also been passed to protect the disabled, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which became law in 1990. The ADA ”… is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public” (ADA National Network, 2017).

Although the ADA provides a federal law that prevents discrimination, many individuals have still kept away from opportunities because of their disabilities. “Government funding of programs for people with disabilities are under threat, even as the baby boomer generation begins to swell the population of people in need of such initiatives. Hope lies in changing public attitudes and using technology to remove barriers for people with disabilities, according to experts” (Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, 2015). In conclusion, although it is clear that we, as a society, have come through great hurdles when it comes to the understanding of individuals with disabilities we must continue forward so we do not fall back into past practices.


1L Media (2013, April 9). Lost in Laconia [Video file]. Retrieved from YouTube website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UesOm2HTm2I

ADA National Network. (2017). What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?. Retrieved from https://adata.org/learn-about-ada

Hardman, Michael L. Human Exceptionality: School, Community, and Family, 12th Edition.  Cengage Learning, 20160101. VitalBook file.

Pouba, K., & Tianen, A. (2006, April). Lunacy in the 19th Century: Women’s Admission to Asylums in the United States of America. Oshkosh Scholar, 1(), 95-103.

TN Department of Human Services. (2017). Tennessee Rehabilitation Center -Smyrna. Retrieved from http://www.tennessee.gov/humanservices/topic/trc-smyrna

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. (2015). The ADA at 25: Important Gains, but
Gaps Remain. Retrieved from http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/the-gaps-that- remain-as-the-ada-turns-25/


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