In 1961, the Minnesota Society for Crippled Children and Adults (now Courage Center) launched a five-year project to achieve accessibility for the handicapped. The Minnesota Architectural Barriers Project studied accessibility barriers across the state, educated builders, architects, building departments, and the general public, produced a film, Sound the Trumpets, and drafted and got passed the first accessibility law in the country. It was signed by Minnesota governor Karl Rolvaag on June 27, 1963. We got it amended and broadened in 1965. The project subsequently resulted in the incorporation of accessibility standards into the new statewide building code in 1966, decades before the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, and led to many other Minnesota statutory provisions protecting the rights of the disabled such as handicapped parking, curb ramping, voting site selection, and equal employment rules.
~Robert W. Schwanke, St. Paul, MN
Since its origins in 1928 as the Minnesota Society for Crippled Children and Adults, Courage Center has been a national leader in providing services to people of all ages with a wide range of physical disabilities, and in advocating for public policies and changes in societal attitudes in order to create greater opportunities for all. Courage Center was literally built through the philanthropic and volunteer support of many thousands of Minnesotans over the decades, and stands as a great tribute to the generous spirit of our state. It's probably not possible to accurately count the total number of lives changed by Courage Center--clients served, their families, their communities, and those who have provided and supported the services. For the most part we now take it as a given that people with disabilities should be able to live independently and not in institutions, to achieve great educational and vocational goals, and fully participate in the life of the community. That was far from the case when the early pioneers began to work to raise awareness and to create services. Wilko Schoenbaum, who oversaw the transition of MSCCA into Courage Center, the opening of Camp Courage and the development of Courage into a nation-leading comprehensive rehabilitation services provider, deserves special mention.
~Jan Malcolm, Minneapolis, MN'
One size doesn't fit all
Founded in 1928 as the Minnesota Society for Crippled Children and Adults (MiSCCA), Minneapolis-based Courage Center is a nonprofit rehabilitation and resource center. Courage Center has a legacy of improving independence and quality of life for people with disabilities. Its full continuum of care includes rehabilitation therapies, transitional rehabilitation, pain management, vocational and community-based services, and camping and sports and recreation programs for people of all ages and abilities.
Courage Center has a history as a national leader in advocating changes in public policies and private attitudes toward people with disabilities. In 1961, MiSCCA received a grant from the U.S. Office of Vocational Rehabilitation for the nation's first survey of architectural barriers. Three years earlier, Henry Haverstock Jr., a Minneapolis attorney and early patient of Sister Elizabeth Kenny, had outlined the necessity of such a survey in MiSCCA's newsletter: "It is simply amazing how many . . . public buildings are still being built with a long line of stairs leading up to them. . . . This is a form of discrimination which our committee intends to militate against, so all of our citizens are given easy access to public places."
Nominator Robert Schwanke, associate professor emeritus in the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health, directed the survey. He notes that one key change in public policy resulting from the survey occurred on June 27, 1963, when Minnesota governor Karl Rolvaag signed the first accessibility law in the United States. "We got the law amended and broadened in 1965," Schwanke writes, "and the project subsequently resulted in the incorporation of accessibility standards into the 1966 Minnesota building code, decades before the federal Americans with Disabilities Act was passed." And, in 1967, Southwest State University in Marshall, the first four-year college in the nation built without barriers, opened.
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