Why might some Americans have been initially resistant to the notion of greater access for people with disabilities?
While there is an economic consideration brought out in the previous post, I would like to suggest that a frontier of tolerance is always difficult to cross. At some level, those who provided resistance to initiatives like the IDEA and other forms of legislation/ social policy that sought to remove the institutional barriers from discrimination and limited access crossed a frontier that allowed tolerance to become part of the discourse. Like all crossings, this passage involved much in the way of resistance and inertia. Social perception and attitudes helped to create the belief that those who were limited by physical capacity were not able to do what others could do, or perceive what others could perceive, and experience what others could experience. This resistance was socially ingrained and taught in both formal and informal ways. Over time, as the frontier of tolerance and acceptance was crossed, more people began to understand this inertia for what it was: A form of discrimination.
Finances move the world. If laws were put into place requiring access to all things for person's with disabilities, then the individual companies would be required to develop plans and implement plans that would allow for the changes.
The second issue was that despite what people like to think, person's with disabilities had always been treated as second class citizens. Unless a person had a disability, the reality of needing access was not present. It was not a pressing issue to most of our society.
The third issue was the reality that making the world accessible meant more than just building ramps. It also meant changing fire codes, widening doorways, and developing a universal design. It meant an immense undertaking.