Health

'Crip Camp': A transformative experience for youngsters with disabilities

Updated 7:05 PM ET, Sat July 25, 2020
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"Crip Camp" 1968: At Camp Jened in the Catskills, youngsters with disabilities learned to be self-sufficient and proud. Some campers went on to found the disability rights movement that helped pass the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Patti Smolian/Courtesy of Netflix
"It was a utopia — when we were there, there was no outside world," says camper Denise Sherer Jacobson, smiling at the camera on the far left. Jacobson became a writer and disability educator. Denise Sherer Jacobson/Courtesy of Netflix
"The ADA was a wonderful achievement. But it was only the tip of the iceberg. You can pass a law but until you can change society's attitudes, that law won't mean much," says Denise Jacobson. Steve Honisgbaum/Courtesy of Netflix
At "Crip Camp," teenaged campers were encouraged to express their individuality and advocate for themselves. For many, it was the first time they had ever felt valued. Joyce Levy/Courtesy of Netflix
Having fun was encouraged, and for many the experience was enlightening. "What we saw at that camp was that our lives could be better. The fact of the matter is that you don't have anything to strive for if you don't know that it exists," said camper Jimmy Lebrecht (not pictured). Courtesy of Netflix
Camper Terri Feinstein has her arms around counselor Steve Hofmann in his wheelchair. Many of the counselors from "Crip Camp" became part of the disability rights movement. Patti Smolian/Courtesy of Netflix
In another vintage color snapshot at "Crip Camp," Cary Walker squints at the camera with a bemused look. Behind him, a couple sitting in wheelchairs share a romantic embrace. Patti Smolian/Courtesy of Netflix
"If I have to feel thankful about an accessible bathroom, when am I ever going to be equal in the community?" said former camper Judith Huemann (not pictured), who went on to be a leader in the disability rights movement. Joyce Levy/Courtesy of Netflix
Typical camp fun: These three campers are wearing face paint and outlandish homemade costumes, including pointy party hats made out of aluminum foil and construction paper. Courtesy of Netflix
August 1968: Cheerful campers gathered in the field, some in wheelchairs, others sitting on the lawn. Being around other kids with disabilities was a relief for many of the campers. "I wanted to be part of the world but I didn't see anyone like me in it," said former camper Jimmy Lebrecht (not pictured). Patti Smolian/Courtesy of Netflix
September 1967: These girls are rocking late 1960s fashion including bright colors, polka dots, and headbands, all part of the self-expression encouraged at "Crip Camp." Joyce Levy/Courtesy of Netflix
"I want to see a feisty group of disabled people around the world," said camper Judith Heumann (not pictured). "If you don't respect yourself and if you don't demand what you believe in for yourself, you're not going to get it." Courtesy of Netflix