In Defense of the Disabled

July 27, 2017

The civil rights movement has had many faces throughout history, but among the lesser known soldiers are Americans with disabilities.

It was not until 1990 that the first comprehensive civil rights act for people with disabilities, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed into law.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.

"Father" of ADA, legendary human rights activist Justin Dart (Capitol Lawn protest, 1990)

"Nearly three decades ago, protesters with disabilities converged on the nation's capital to fight for one of the most important civil rights laws in our history - the Americans with Disabilities Act ... these brave protesters ascended the 83 steps of the United States Capitol - some even crawling to get to the top - so they could send a message to their representatives: no American should ever face discrimination based on their disability status."
-- former Congressman Tony Coelho (D-CA), original ADA Sponsor & Chair, DNC Disability Council and DNC Chair Tom Perez Statement

The goal was to provide disabled American the same protections afforded under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal.

The historic legislation was introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) in the Senate (S. 933) and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990.

Author of the bill, former Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA)


The ADA was revised in 2008 under the ADA  Amendments Act (ADAAA) to expand the definition of disabled.

ADA Today
There are 56 million Americans who live with disabilities and, for the first time since the passage of ADA 27 years ago, their rights are in danger.

President Trump, who infamously mocked a disabled reporter on camera during the presidential campaign, supports a 26% cut to Medicaid which advocates say "will greatly reduce access to medical care and home and community based services for elderly and disabled Americans who will either die or be forced into institutions."

On June 22,  disability rights groups organized a sit-in outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office to protest the cuts and bring attention of the plight of our nation's most vulnerable.

To learn more about ADA and how to Advocate for the Disabled:

LINKS:  Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division: ADA PageThe ADA National Network & Resources,ADAPT, National Disability Rights NetworkDisability Rights Education & Defense Fund,  DNC Disability Council

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: The ADA National Network,,, CongressionalBudgetOffice (CBO), WashPost

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