Cover of Politics of Empowerment by David Pettinicchio
Politics of Empowerment
Disability Rights and the Cycle of American Policy Reform
David Pettinicchio


September 2019
248 pages.
from $30.00

Cloth ISBN: 9781503600874
Paper ISBN: 9781503609761

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Despite the progress of decades-old disability rights policy, including the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, threats continue to undermine the wellbeing of this population. The U.S. is, thus, a policy innovator and laggard in this regard. In Politics of Empowerment, David Pettinicchio offers a historically grounded analysis of the singular case of U.S. disability policy, countering long-held views of progress that privilege public demand as its primary driver.

By the 1970s, a group of legislators and bureaucrats came to act as "political entrepreneurs." Motivated by personal and professional commitments, they were seen as experts leading a movement within the government. But as they increasingly faced obstacles to their legislative intentions, nascent disability advocacy and protest groups took the cause to the American people forming the basis of the contemporary disability rights movement. Drawing on extensive archival material, Pettinicchio redefines the relationship between grassroots advocacy and institutional politics, revealing a cycle of progress and backlash embedded in the American political system.

About the author

David Pettinicchio is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto and affiliated faculty in the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.