Crip Camp shows the beginning of disability rights movement


Evie Smith, Reporter

Camp Jened is the epitome of summer camp. This upstate New York camp during the 1970s was where anyone and everyone wanted to be. With executive producers Barack and Michelle Obama under Higher Ground Productions, this documentary is a must-watch. “Crip Camp” is a documentary that takes you through history. The Sundance Film Festival Audience Award winner and Oscar-nominated documentary is a disability revolution. Camp Jened was where so many disability rights activists found their voice and saw what life would be like if they didn’t have to constantly rely on someone else. 


The film premiered on January 23, 2020, at Sundance, and shortly after came to Netflix, where it is currently streaming. Documentaries usually do not appeal to me, but this one caught my attention and held it for the whole 108 minutes. With the back and forth between the old footage from Camp Jened and the interviews from the campers today, you got an inside look at what these people’s lives were like before the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Spoiler alert, it was nothing like the accessibility of life today. 


Directed by Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht, “Crip Camp” displays the life of disabled individuals and the discrimination they faced before the ADA. We see five different people’s perspectives from their carefree time at Camp Jened, to being main subjects in the protests for the disability civil rights movement. One of the biggest protests being a twenty-eight-day sit-in showing the government that these people do not need pity and can do anything they can. 


The rated R documentary received some backlash for the title, “Crip Camp”, with crip usually having a negative connotation. The directors wanted to show that they can reclaim the word and add power to it. That is exactly what they did. The film documents power from people who society has deemed powerless. I found it to be an eye-opening documentary. 


This practically unknown time in history is not talked about enough, and not included in the civil rights movement you learn about in school. This documentary shows you exactly what happened and the steps people have taken to get to where we are in our society today. “Crip Camp” should most definitely be on your watch list.