C.R.A.A.B. (Citizens to Remove Architectural and Attitudinal Barriers): Mini Notes January-February 1985 Progress Update Notice
This artifact contains information that was intended to be dispersed to the active members of the Citizens to Remove Architectural and Attitudinal Barriers (C.R.A.A.B.) in Fitchburg, MA in 1985. To provide a context for this artifact, the group C.R.A.A.B. was an organization of people living with disabilities as well as members of the community acting as allies who were hoping to remove barriers for those with disabilities.
C.R.A.A.B.’s group leaders created this mini note newsletter to inform their members that the state of Massachusetts had just accepted the acronym name “C.R.A.A.B., Inc.” and the group was focusing on making a movement towards solidifying their logo, and within this letter they were asking for opinions and ideas from group members. This artifact shows that those in charge of the club found it important to be inclusive of their members when making decisions. Informing their group members was incredibly important and as any group begins to form themselves, there is a great need for a tight knit community to develop among that group. Furthermore, this artifact focuses on “The Crab Calendar” as well as special event planning, goals and ideas for bringing the community closer as a whole.
This mini newsletter was distributed to all members as a call to action, or an “attention!” as it says on the header of the artifact. The idea of listening to one another in the C.R.A.A.B. meetings and allowing for “Show and Tell” was brought up within the writing as well. The goal for the next program in February of 1985 was to come prepared to share something beyond their disability. As the group so often spoke of their difficulties living with disability this newsletter offers a new hope for the members to return and discuss what brings them joy, pleasure, and happiness. Not only does this humanize these members more, but it allows them to focus on something positive in a community of people who understand that it is not always easy.
This artifact also offers news that was affecting those with disabilities at the time, for example the topic of transportation and the issue of accessing the surrounding towns such as Leominster and Gardner. The headline that says “Real Progress!” gives information about one of the members having a meeting with Mohammed Khan (administrator of the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority), and it provided to those living with disabilities or those who had no ride to the meetings access to a new van transportation service equipped with a lift and multiple wheelchair tie-downs with a capacity of nine people. Not only does this artifact show what was posing barriers, but it shows how this community and this group worked together to share their struggles with one another and make real progress in changing the way the world views those who are disabled.
A brief notice was made to the community about the “Telephone Tree” (as seen in the Telephone Tree headline) which solved an issue about the misplacement of the contact lists within the community. The headline described that there was a labelled sticker on the back of the newsletter which presented the contact lists and then it followed by informing the reader to remove the backing and attach the label to the underside of the telephone instrument. This label became effective because the contact numbers will be in front of them whenever they would pick up the phone.
Rather than seeing disability as a problem, this group saw it as something they could connect with one another over, and more importantly they understood that attitudinal barriers were strong. It was up to them to make movement forward to break down the barriers that were keeping them from experiencing life without being excluded from society on a daily basis. When we consider attitudinal barriers we see the side of those who are pushed out of society because they aren’t “the same.” This group was not only a disability rights community, but also they were in many ways a social justice group. The C.R.A.A.B. community hoped to share their stories with one another for support, but also with the community around them of people who do not live with disabilities. The group was advocating for themselves so they could live a “normal” life in society and be freed from barriers that exist because of stereotypes and an overall lack of understanding towards the community.
Although the group itself was recognized as a club in the Fitchburg community, it seems that they did struggle to get their information out when distributing it to those around them because the history surrounding disability is often times left out of education and any conversation among those who do not have disabilities. When a group of people attempts to make a change, the community’s response around them is equally as important as those in the group itself. An interview conducted by Fred Pelka with multiple disability advocates considered the socioeconomic downfalls of creating a club such as C.R.A.A.B. in Fitchburg, while the disability activist groups in Boston seemed to be making great moves forward.
There was a notice of the “Dissolution” of the C.R.A.A.B. (suggested by the advisory board) might come to effect in June 30th, 1989, leading to a form that was given at the end of the article that consisted if they wanted to approve the dissolution of C.R.A.A.B. If they disapproved it, they would have to write their reason. It also considered if they would want to approve the legal transfer of the physical assets included and lastly, with given three options of organizations, to decide where the remaining balance would go.
In the big picture Fitchburg C.R.A.A.B. might seem to fall short; yet the history is important because it is where the disability community can find their roots and move forward with a foundation of those before them who wanted to create an accessible and inclusive future for those with disabilities in the generations to come. While economically there may have been limitations for the C.R.A.A.B. club, they were still recognized as a club by the community and they made a great deal of effort to put their information into the Sentinel and Enterprise newspaper in hopes to reach a larger audience.
The artifact itself does not include any names of those who wrote it or contributed to the mini notes, but it does seem to be written in an accessible format, all of the letters being uppercase and bolded for those who may have vision-related disabilities. This group was very interested in being inclusive and they were very focused on making the members of the club feel connected to the larger community. While the history of this organization is not fully recorded in minutes on the archive website, there are still pieces that can be put together when it comes to who was running this club. The founding members of the club all did have disabilities, and it seemed that they wanted more than anything to convey that they were people before they were their disabilities. Those in charge of creating this mini-note were very focused on putting the members before themselves: they asked their opinions for the logo, the way the acronym would appear, and it seems that they wanted to create events and have activities based on what their group members wanted in particular. The concept of this group seems to be inclusiveness above all and to maintain a community full of positivity and strength, therefore lifting up those who have throughout history been excluded from the conversation as a whole.
“Agenda Center.” City of Fitchburg, http://www.ci.fitchburg.ma.us/AgendaCenter/Disability-Commission-7.
NewspaperARCHIVE. NewspaperARCHIVE.com, https://newspaperarchive.com/tags/citizens-to-remove-architectural-barriers/?plo=fitchburg/.
Pelka, Fred. “Massachusetts Activists and Leaders in Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement.” Online Archive of California, California Digital Library, 2009, https://oac.cdlib.org/view?docId=hb6k4004wn;NAAN=13030&doc.view=frames&chunk.id=div00032&toc.depth=1&toc.id=div00032&brand=oac4&query=fitchburg.