Early 20th century

In the first half of the century, eugenicist ideas, along with charitable initiatives, led to increased institutionalisation or sterilisation of disabled people. In 37 states in the USA, born-deaf women and anyone with an IQ (Intelligence Quotient measured on a biased test) under the age of 70 were sterilised in the 1920s and 1930s. Seventeen states still had these laws on the statute book in the 1980s.

The UK Mental Deficency Act of 1913 firmly categorised disabled people, as follows:

Idiots – persons in whose case there exists mental defectiveness of such a degree that they are unable to guard themselves against common physical dangers.

Imbeciles – persons in whose case there exists mental defectiveness which, though not amounting to idiocy, is yet so pronounced that they are incapable of managing themselves and their affairs or, in the case of children, of being taught to do so.

Feeble minded – persons in whose case there exists mental defectiveness which, though not amounting to imbecility, is yet so pronounced that they require care, supervision and control for their own protection or for the protection of others. Or, in the case of children, that they appear to be permanently incapable by reason of such defectiveness of receiving proper benefit from the instruction in ordinary school.

Moral defective – persons in whose case there exists mental defectiveness, coupled with strong vicious or criminal propensities and who require care, supervision and control for the protection of others.

50,000 children with communication and physical impairments, and more than 500,000 adults were incarcerated in institutions in the first half of the 20th century (many were released in the 1980s). Children with significant learning difficulties were deemed ineducable and those with less significant learning difficulty went to educationally sub-normal schools until 1973.

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Published in: on February 3, 2007 at 2:46 am  Comments Off on Early 20th century  
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