Liza Berger headshot
Liza Berger
Liza Berger headshot
Liza Berger

A lot has been made of the Better Care Better Jobs Act legislation, which now is up in the air in Congress. “Historic,” “groundbreaking” and “once-in-a-lifetime” have been used to describe this bill, which would increase Medicaid funding for home- and community-based services.

To get a sense of what such legislation might mean for the disabled community, I have a movie for you. It is called “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution.”

The 2020 Netflix documentary, which was nominated for a 2021 Academy Award, is about a now-shuttered summer camp in Upstate New York that helped to shape some of the future leaders of the disability rights movement.

The uplifting, eye-opening and extremely moving film follows a few of the campers from their days at Camp Jened in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s to today. Among those is the outspoken Judy Heumann, wheelchair-bound due to polio. From helping organize her fellow campers regarding a camp meal, she later staged the occupation of a federal government building in the fight for enforcement of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which preceded the Americans With Disabilities Act.

And there is the director, Jim LeBrecht, a fun-loving risk taker in a wheelchair due to spina bifida, who talked at one point in the movie about working relentlessly to hide his disability. That meant navigating several flights of stairs to work his dream job out of college: handling sound for a theater company in Berkeley.

It’s hard for many of us to understand life before ADA, a law, 30 years old this year, that created the accessibility many now take for granted. But that is exactly what many people in this film battled for desperately.

Better Care Better Jobs seems to represent another step forward for disability rights. Among its goals, it would increase the availability of personal care services, expand financial eligibility for HCBS, and help individuals with disabilities join the workforce without losing lifesaving benefits.

After seeing this film, it’s hard not to agree with the Better Care Better Job proponents. It’d be a shame to let such an opportunity pass.

Liza Berger is editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Email her at [email protected]. Follow her @lizaberger19.