I saw a preview for the movie, Music Within, which is based on the true story of Richard Pimentel, the man who is credited with championed the Americans with Disabilities Act, into becoming law.
Here is summary of his life story as found on www.miltwright.com:
Richard Pimentel was pronounced dead at birth in the delivery room. In a miraculous turn of events, he lived. His mother, who had experienced three miscarriages before his birth, left him in an orphanage, unable to come to terms with his existence. After his father’s death, he was raised by his impoverished grandmother and deemed “retarded” by a school guidance counselor. He never spoke a word until age six.
After his mother abandoned him again for a new boyfriend, Richard was left homeless and roamed from friend’s homes to his father’s old workplace, a strip bar. He lived and slept in the dressing room. During these hard times, he managed to win two national high school speech championships and was offered a college scholarship by College Bowl founder, Dr. Ben Padrow. Richard arrived on campus only to hear Dr. Padrow tell him to come back when he had “something to say.”
Richard followed Dr. Padrow’s advice and quit school. Soon after he was drafted to Vietnam, where he survived a volunteer suicide mission and became an acknowledged war hero. During his brief celebration, a stray bomb exploded in his bunker and ravaged his hearing. Not only did Richard lose his hearing, he developed tinnitus, a constant ringing in the ears. The government dismissed his dreams of college and public speaking, insisting his fate was one of insanity and rage due to his condition.
Richard refused to accept this fate. He returned to college where he met Art Honneyman, “the smartest and funniest man he has ever known,” who just happened to have a severe case of cerebral palsy. No one could understand Art due to his wheezing, garbled speech—-except for Richard, who could hear Art’s true voice due to his hearing loss.
At 3 AM, in celebration of Art’s birthday, Art and Richard sat down in a local restaurant for a pancake breakfast. Their waitress threatened to call the police, deeming him the “ugliest, most disgusting thing” she had ever seen. They refused to leave and were arrested under the “Ugly Law,” a statute that prohibited public appearances of people who were “unsightly.” This injustice propelled Richard, with the help of Dr. Padrow and a host of friends, headlong into the nascent disability movement