inVISBILITY has been published by the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities (MNCDD). It is a 110-page visual history of the journey to increase the independence, productivity, self-determination, integration and inclusion of Minnesotans with developmental disabilities and their families.
Images from the Minnesota Historical Society from the first half of the twentieth century provide an often poignant glimpses into the lives of people with developmental disabilities. Most photos focus on children who elicited feelings of pity and compassion. Rarer still are pictures of infants and adults with developmental disabilities who may have been hidden away.
The photos reflect a time when state officials were focused on building state institutions through Minnesota, and on the eugenics movement. This was an attempt to build a “better” human race by segregating individuals with developmental disabilities from society. In 1923 the Board of Control urged opening a new state hospital to prevent crime, vice, pauperism, and mental and physical disease, with their untold costs to the state materially, morally, and socially.
Pictures also show the changes starting in the 1960s and 1970s, when participants in the Parent Movement collectively fought for legislative changes, initiated critical court challenges, worked with the media on exposés about poor living conditions for people with disabilities, pressed for their children’s educational rights, and sought access to vocational training for them. It also details the two major court cases arising from that era, the Welsch case from 1972 to 1989 and the Jensen lawsuit from 2009 to 2020.
The Welsch case alleged that conditions in the institutions violated the constitutional rights of residents under the Eighth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. In February 1974, the court held that people with intellectual disabilities have a constitutional right to treatment in the least restrictive environment.
The Jensen lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota alleging that the now-closed Minnesota Extended Treatment Options (METO) program used restraint and seclusion in a way that violated residents’ constitutional rights. These rights include the Eighth Amendment to be free from cruel and unusual punishment), under the 14th Amendment under the due process clause, as well as their rights under federal and state statutes, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act.
The book also details how education, employment and housing have changed, and details the self-advocacy movement. It also shares many personal stories. See the book at https://mn.gov/mnddc/50th/GCDD_Invisibility_FNL.pdf