On this inauguration day, January 20, 2021, I am highlighting an important project documenting a historical president. Franklin D. Roosevelt (known by his initials FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States from 1933-1945. He was the architect of the New Deal and the Commander-in-Chief during World War II.
FDR also had a physical disability. In 1921, he contracted polio at age 39 and he became a wheelchair user.
FDR visited wounded veterans while remaining in his wheelchair, but he wore steel leg braces that allowed him to stand at public events.
The FDR Memorial commemorates his leadership during the Great Depression and World War II. However, when it opened in 1997, it did not accurately represent his physical disability.
More than 50 disability organizations from across the country supported the FDR Wheelchair Statue Campaign. Sixteen Roosevelt grandchildren agreed that FDR should be shown as a person with a disability. The FDR Wheelchair Statue was dedicated in 2001.
The FDR Memorial Legacy Committee is a project of the National Council on Independent Living that documents this campaign through an archive of oral histories and media clips.
The announcement of this archive states that:
“The FDR Memorial Legacy Committee (FDR Committee), as part of the DC Community Heritage Project (DCCHP), proudly unveiled the initial archives chronicling the history of the fight for disability representation” that “was led by people with disabilities from 1995-2001.”
Please visit the archive to learn about this important campaign for disability representation.
“During the unveiling event, disability rights advocates Judy Heumann and Dr. I King Jordan reflected on the impact of the campaign to represent FDR as a disabled president and the collective work that still needs to be accomplished to ensure equitable disability representation. Dr. I King Jordan exclaimed, “Disability is not talked about. People talk about diversity, equity, inclusion and disability needs to be included in those conversations. This archive is a visual way to do that.”
I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Jordan’s statement. It was my honor to evaluate the archives for their accessibility, and my privilege to learn about this overlooked aspect of presidential history.