The ADA was signed into law July 26,1990, which makes 2020 the 30th anniversary of The Americans with Disabilities Act. Justin Dart, the father of the ADA, explains that the ADA is not the solution. He is quoted as saying “rather, it is an essential foundation on which solutions will be constructed”. Obtaining this “foundation” took years of advocacy by the disability community. I had just graduated high school the summer President George HW Bush signed the ADA so it has been law my whole adult life. I am proud of it for both the rights it gives me and for what it stands for. To me the ADA is a symbol of what could happen when the whole disabled community comes together in all kinds of advocacy. The ADA happened as a result of Justin Dart being asked by President Reagan to lead a committee on disability employment. The committee realized and decided there could not be employment of disabled people without rights for people with disabilities. For this reason the concept of the Americans with Disabilities Act was born.
There were many people who wrote letters in support of the ADA. They wrote stories about the need for good, reliable transportation and access to government and public businesses. These are necessities that were fought for for years and are part of the ADA. The day before Congress voted on the ADA, advocates with physical disabilities crawled up the capital steps to make the need for the right to access clear. Along with other advocacy, like letter writing, the capital crawl was done with the support of ADAPT, and helped to get the ADA passed.Thinking back on this time helps me to appreciate the disability movement. Thanks to the letter writing and effective protests, the committed advocates were able to put the ADA into action, and we can now take our accessibility issues to the Supreme Court.
The ADA gives us the freedom of accessibility in government and work, and the ability to use public businesses. This document, The Americans with Disabilities Act was fought for by the whole community and was the idea of Justin Dart, who is known as the father of the ADA. This deserves repeating and celebrating. The ADA is a law, a living document. As a living document, cases about the Americans with Disabilities Act sometimes go to the Supreme Court. Those cases then define our rights. Some decisions affect one single case, others like the Olmstead decision gives the right to integrated settings to many people with disabilities.This stands on the foundation of the ADA. It doesn’t matter if your disability is visible or invisible the ADA covers you.
30 years is a long time. With each year I grow more proud on July 26th.
Justin Dart, Jr., ADA Worklife, Fall 1990 issue by President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities) <https://mn.gov/mnddc/ada-legacy/pdf/related-quotes-by-justin-dart.pdf>.