“Places of Such Towering Misery”: The History of the Institutionalization of Disabled People and Deinstitutionalization


Throughout the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of disabled people (or people considered to be disabled by society) in America were institutionalized. Institutionalization is the process of placing disabled people in large, state-run facilities where they are typically isolated from their communities and do not have control over their lives. Institutionalization occurred because of the belief that disabled people needed to be separated from society and that they could be treated or cured in institutions. In many institutions people were abused and neglected which caused them severe harm. Because of the abusive conditions of institutions many disabled people supported deinstitutionalization, which occurred from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. They helped to bring about deinstitutionalization through their efforts to destigmatize disability, activism, work to create independent living communities, and participation in lawsuits against institutions.



History, Disabilities