People.com Entertainment Movies How a Free-Spirited Summer Camp for Disabled Teens in the '70s Changed the World "For two months out of the year, I had this experience where I wasn't an 'other,'" says one of the camp's attendees By Nigel Smith Nigel Smith Nigel Smith is Senior News Editor, Movies at PEOPLE. He is an Entertainment Editor and Writer with more than 10 years of experience in the online and print industries as a journalist, storyteller, proofreader and manager. In 2017 Smith joined the PEOPLE editorial team in New York as News Editor, Movies. He has written feature stories and reviews including interviews with Ryan Reynolds, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Hudson and Russell Crowe. Prior, he served as News Editor at the Wrap in Los Angeles, and Entertainment Editor at the Guardian, also in LA, where he covered the red carpet at major awards shows including the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Governors Awards, Grammy Awards and Independent Spirit Awards. He also attended and reported on major film festivals at Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, Telluride, SXSW and Tribeca. Smith has appeared as an expert commentator on numerous morning and entertainment shows including Good Morning America, Today, NBC News, BBC News, Access Hollywood, NY1, PeopleTV and more. A native of Toronto, Canada, Smith graduated from Syracuse University in New York State with Master of Arts degree in Arts Journalism (Film). He is married and lives in New York City. People Editorial Guidelines Updated on July 26, 2020 08:00 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Golda Simon In honor of ADA30 — the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act being signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990 — PEOPLE is reflecting on the 2020 Netflix documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution. Summer camps can be transformative places for teens: it’s where many often have their first kiss and form life-long friendships. Camp Jened, founded in 1951 in the Catskills in upstate New York, was one such place for teenagers with physical and mental disabilities. Disabilities activist Judy Heumann, 72, a polio survivor who has been in a wheelchair most of her life, and Jim LeBrecht, 63, who was born with spina bifida and has always used a wheelchair, recall their experiences at Camp Jened — and how it would inspire them to make history — in the Netflix documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution. LeBrecht also co-directed the movie alongside Nicole Newnham. “There was a finite amount of time at camp, and very close relationships were developed,” Heumann tells PEOPLE. “I really think it boosted people’s sense of self. It allowed people to really value who they are and what their dreams were.” “For two months out of the year, I had this experience where I wasn’t an ‘other,'” adds LeBrecht. “I even found my first girlfriend there.” Camp Jened. Golda Simon Couple Who Wed After Meeting as Special Olympics Coaches Now Have 2 Kids Who Compete in Games In the 1970s, as the disability rights movement was beginning to take shape, many former campers began to realize they could lend their voices to making change. “[At Camp Jened] we were able to envision a world that didn’t have to be set up in a way that excluded us,” says Heumann. “We started to have a common vision and were beginning to talk about things like, ‘Why are buses not accessible?'” Camp Jened. Golda Simon Heumann was already politically active by the time LeBrecht arrived at camp at the age of 15 in 1971 (she was in her early 20s at the time). “I had this sense that the world was unfair,” he says. “As a young teenager I realized, ‘Wow, we can actually fight back.'” Judy Huemann. HolLynn D'Lil In 1977, Heumann led, with Kitty Cone, a civil rights protest known as the 504 Sit-in, where more than 150 activists with disabilities refused to leave San Francisco’s Federal Building for 25 days, the longest sit-in at a federal building in history. The aim: to call for regulations to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which had been passed earlier and prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities but had yet to be enforced. Camp Jened. Joyce Levy The occupation eventually resulted in new regulations being signed, which guaranteed people with disabilities equal rights in the workplace and laid the groundwork for the American with Disabilities Act in 1990. Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution is now available to stream on Netflix.