Accommodation

“Accommodation” bears a more positive and powerful meaning in disability discourse than its roots in race and religion contexts would predict. In the history of U.S. racial politics, “accommodation” is a dirty word. Accounts of the early civil rights era used accommodation to refer to a brand of gradualism and compromise associated with Booker T. Washington—a position famously critiqued as “conciliation” by W. E. B. DuBois (1994; Myrdal 1944). But while racial accommodation evokes blacks accommodating the white majority, in the disability context accommodation means changing society in response to disability. The term has thus shifted radically in both sense and reference.

Accommodation gained prominence as a keyword in disability politics and theory through legal discourse. In the United States, which introduced the term into our legal vocabulary, accommodation began as a right of religious employees under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Almost immediately, however, courts emptied it of …

This essay may be found on page 18 of the printed volume.

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