Rights in American society present a paradox-critics increasingly assert that proliferation of rights is undermining Americans' sense of community, yet scholars continue to document Americans' reluctance to assert formal legal rights. We explore the meaning of rights in American society by describing the intersection between the evolving civil rights of a previously excluded minority, culminating in the, and the personal histories of two individuals who might potentially invoke or benefit from such rights. Tracing the life stories of "Sara Lane" and 'Jill Golding" from childhood through adolescence to adulthood and employment, we relate the everyday relevance or irrelevance of law to important elements of the reconstructed past the development of self-concept and of one's place in relation to the social mainstream. The article, which is part of a larger project involving a more broadly based interview sample of adults with disabilities, analyzes life stories to critique familiar assumptions about the perceived conflict between rights and social relationships and about the mobilization of law. It also offers an innovative approach to the study of law and legal consciousness by involving Sara Lane and Jill Golding in the analysis of successive drafts and by including their reactions to what the authors have written.
30 Law & Society Review 7 (1996)