For the first time, the disabled represented an interest group and their cause was motivated by the growing concern that individuals with disabilities were systematically victimized and will continue to be violated until something was done to bring attention to their plight (Ward & Meyer 1999). Through sustained activism and advocacy, disability was transformed from a simple cause to one that had taken on a rights-based connotation (Yongjoo & Haider-Markel 2001).
The fight to end the systematic discrimination of the disabled was one that was marked by serious limitations on social and political participation. This discrimination prevailed despite the ongoing governmental efforts aimed at improving inclusion of individuals with disabilities. An example of this can be seen in the fact that the employment rates among individuals with disabilities had not been significantly impacted after the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Many disability activists and advocates consistently questioned the efficacy and integrity of governmental programs designed to support the efforts of individuals with disabilities and their families in securing full participation of individuals with disabilities in society. In fact, the Disability Rights Movement has been criticized on the basis that it was a mere duplication in legislative action with regards to the marginalized. It was felt that disabilities policies (especially the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) were unnecessarily litigious, counter-productive, and failed to represent the collective interests of the stakeholders. These differing interpretations of policy effects facilitate the need for more effective communication with regards to disabilities as well as a more comprehensive understanding of the varying perceptions of stakeholders' as they relate to the rights and personal characteristics of the disabled (Fleischer & Zames 2001).
The impact of social movements and interest groups on the delineation and definition of the issues involved remains ambiguous to a great extent as there is a wide range of limitations faced by individuals with disabilities. Essentially, individuals often vary in the problem definitions they choose to adopt (Rochefort & Cobb 1994). As with any other civil rights movement, the involvement of citizen as well as their attachment to social movement groups varies with some individuals adopting the issue definition advocated by the social movement while others deviate from this definition. Issue definition at the individual level, however, remains vital because it determines whether individuals exhibit a propensity to make claims on government during policy implementation. This in turn affects the overall impact of the program and reiterates the point that the sole purpose of the government is to respond to the needs of its constituents. The practical implications of this are such than when the demands of the different groups are viewed together; these demands serve to influence program funding as well as to refine the focus of governmental initiatives. Essentially, our frame of thought with regards to social