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Historically, discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities has been the general rule rather than the exception. The Athenians put deaf children to death, and the practice of exposing such children reportedly had the approval of Aristotle and Plato. In the Middle Ages, when handicapped persons were not imprisoned, they were driven from cities to wander through rural areas. Traditionally, Western societies have treated handicapped persons little differently than criminals, drunks, or slaves and have, in the past, imprisoned them when their only crime was their inability to support themselves.

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