Politics of Empowerment: New Book by Professor David Pettinicchio

Why are decades-old disability rights policies like the ADA facing political threats which undermine their ability to help people with disabilities?

Professor David Pettinicchio’s newly published book, “Politics of Empowerment: Disability Rights and the Cycle of American Policy Reform” aims to answer this question. In addition, he states that it offers a timely explanation for how the United States acts as both policy innovator and laggard. Dr. Pettinichio is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga and an affiliated faculty member in the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

The book’s publisher, Standford University Press, includes the following synopsis on their website:

Despite the progress of decades-old disability rights policy, including the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, threats continue to undermine the wellbeing of Americans with disabilities. 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 US 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.

Read more about the book and Professor Pettinicchio’s research on his website.