Funky and free-spirited: How a 1970s summer camp started a disability revolution

September 5, 2023

All incoming UC Berkeley students watched Crip Camp, a documentary about a summer camp in New York's Catskill Mountains, as part of the program On the Same Page.

It was summertime in the early 1970s in New York City. Fifteen-year-old Jim LeBrecht boarded a school bus headed for the Catskill Mountains, home to Camp Jened, a summer camp for people with disabilities. As the bus approached the camp, he peered out the window at the warm and raucous group below.

"I wasn't exactly sure who was a camper and who was a counselor," he said. "I think that's really indicative of one of the many things that made that camp special."

Over several years, the camp changed him in profound ways.

"I, for the first time, understood that I didn’t need to be embarrassed about being disabled, that I could have pride in who I was," he said. "And that it was possible to fight back against the system that was keeping us down."

Nearly five decades later, in 2020, LeBrecht and filmmaker Nicole Newnham released on Netflix the documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, about Camp Jened and the activism it inspired. 

Berkeley News