THE accomplishments of thousands of highly motivated people are making it clear that ``disabled'' does not mean ``unable.'' Individuals who used to be relegated to life's shelf as handicapped are filling demanding jobs, pursuing mainstream educations, and raising families. Behind this freeing of human potential lies what has been called a ``third wave'' of civil rights activism - paralleling the black and women's movements. The Monitor's recent series ``Breaking Barriers,'' by staff writer Catherine Foster, examined this new campaign for rights.
Advocacy organizations have been formed to address such basic needs as access to public transportation and places of work. Some businesses are actively hiring and promoting disabled workers. Even so, the jobless rate among the disabled remains at 66 percent.
Advocacy groups are forcing wider compliance with laws on the books - particularly regarding access to public transportation. The federal fair-housing legislation passed by Congress this week and endorsed by President Reagan will require that new private multifamily housing be accessible to the disabled.
These signs of progress both reflect and generate shifts in attitude. People experiencing physical and mental handicaps are refusing to recede into sheltered existences. Others see their accomplishments and move away from stereotypes of people tied to dependency.
At the most fundamental level, explored in today's daily religious article, Page 27, lie questions about the nature of man and of wholeness. The movement to open opportunities to the disabled is helping close the door to judgments based only on physical appearance.