First Advisor

Tom Hastings

Date of Award

Spring 6-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology and University Honors






disability justice, disability rights movement, civil disobedience, nonviolent protest, adapt


Nonviolent resistance is an effective tool for enacting large scale change including the advancement of civil rights. Disabled Americans have often used nonviolent protest and civil resistance to this aim. Despite this rich history of activism, the history of the Disability Rights Movement has largely been missing from scholarship on nonviolent resistance. Similarly, historical accounts in Disability Studies provide a fragmented perspective on the use of nonviolent resistance by Disabled people. This thesis delves into this under-appreciated history. From the League of the Physically Handicapped in the 1930s to Trump’s inauguration in 2016, this paper traces the progress of the movement: the players involved, the victories, and the mistakes. A mix of primary and secondary historical accounts are analyzed for the use of nonviolent strategy. The Disability Rights Movement has needed to adapt the tactics of nonviolent resistance in creative ways. Nonviolent scholars and practitioners of all kinds can get a unique perspective by studying how Disabled people have reinvented these techniques. Simply being exposed to stories of nonviolent resistance has been a catalyst for new movements. This is a vital corrective for a group that is often told what they can’t do. Thus, stories of activism in the Disability community can be especially meaningful. They showcase how change can be brought on by the work of Disabled people themselves.