Lives Worth Living

Lives Worth Living

  • BY Eric Neudel | IN Social Justice
    Premiered October 27, 2011

About the Film

People with disabilities are one of the largest minorities in the United States. But for most of American history, they occupied a sub-class of millions without access to everyday things most citizens take for granted: schools, apartment buildings, public transportation, and more. Some were forcibly sterilized under state laws. Others were committed to horrifying institutions where they were left and forgotten. MORE

After World War II, however, things began to change, thanks to a small group of determined people with an unwavering determination to live their lives like anyone else, and to liberate all disabled Americans of the limitations their government refused to accommodate.

Lives Worth Living traces the development of consciousness of these pioneers who realized that in order to change the world they needed to work together. Through demonstrations and inside legislative battles, the disability rights community secured equal civil rights for all people with disabilities. Thanks to their efforts, tens of millions of people's lives have been changed.

This film is an oral history, told by the movement's mythical heroes themselves, and illustrated through the use of rare archival footage. The story features Fred Fay, who suffered a spinal cord injury at age 17 in 1961, and simply refused to be relegated to life’s sidelines just because he couldn’t walk. He fought tirelessly for decades for equal rights, access, and opportunity for the disabled, including advocating for programs allowing the disabled to live independently. (Fred died August 20, 2011; the film is dedicated to him.) Also featured is Ed Roberts, who founded the independent living movement in Berkeley and is also considered a father of the disability rights movement.

Echoing footage of Martin Luther King marching in Selma, we see protestors climb from wheelchairs and drag themselves courageously up courthouse steps; we watch as quadriplegic activists maneuver their chairs in front of public buses that are not equipped to accommodate them.

The film ends with the dramatic battle for the Americans with Disabilities Act, one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation in America's history. The thousands of individuals who came together to change attitudes and laws demonstrated the power of humanity, cooperation, and self-determination, and what can be accomplished against seemingly insurmountable obstacles. LESS

Film Credits

A Film by
Eric Neudel

Associate Producer
Alison Gilkey

Bernice Schneider

Sam Powell
Eric Neudel
Joseph Vitagliano

Sound Recording and Assistant Editor
Peter Neudel

Alison Gilkey
Annie Eisenhart
Lisa Sandler

John Kusiak and P. Andrew Willis

Re-recording Mixers
James LeBrecht
Dan Olmsted

Dialog Editor
Patti Tauscher

Sound Editor
Jamie Branquinho

Post Production Audio
Berkeley Sound Artists

HD Finishing Facility
Modulus Studios

Post Finishing Supervisor
Eric Masunaga

Colorist, HD Mastering
Evan Schwenterly

Post Finishing Engineer
Frank McDonnell

Document Animation
Alisa Placas Frutman
Aaron D. Nee

Maureen Barillaro

Photos Courtesy of

Berkeley Center for Independent Living
Dr. William Bronston
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
Center on Human Policy, Syracuse University
Yoshiko Dart
Disabled Students Program, UC Berkeley
HolLynn D'Lil
Jack Duncan
Fred Fay
Ann Ford
Getty Images
Senator Harkin
Judy Heumann
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Joan Leon
Madness Network News
March of Dimes Foundation
National Archives
Tom Olin
Pacific Street Films
The Republican
Zona Roberts

Archival Footage Courtesy of

Bancroft Library
Dr. William Bronston
Gallaudet University
Gordie Haug
Library of Congress
March of Dimes Foundation
National Archives
Roosevelt Warm Springs

Archival News Articles Courtesy of

Boston Globe
Boston Herald
Library of Congress
New York Post
New York Times
New York World-Telegram
Staten Island Advance
Washington Post

Special Thanks

MaryLou Breslin
Scott Cooper
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
Susan Henderson
Bergen Kenney
Amy Selders
Richard Spittler
Lauren Tenney
Sherman Won

Executive Producer for ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer

Funding provided by
Tim Barberich and Eileen Gebrian
Spaulding Rehabilitation Network
Commonwealth Care Alliance
Elmer C. Bartels

Lives Worth Living is a co-production of Storyline Motion Pictures, LLC
and the Independent Television Service (ITVS), with funding provided by
the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

Lives Worth Living is produced by Storyline Motion Pictures, LLC, which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2011 Storyline Motion Pictures, LLC. All rights reserved.

Ever parked in a handicapped space even if you’re not disabled? Have you experienced discrimination based on a disability? Share your stories with us.


Ever parked in a handicapped space even if you’re not disabled? Have you experienced discrimination based on a disability? Share your stories with us.