“The road to enactment will be filled with potholes and roadblocks,” said Senator Tom Harkin in 1988 during a joint committee hearing on S. 2345, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). “But if we stick together as a community…I believe we will succeed.”
For years leading up to and following the hearing, members of the disability rights community shaped a successful advocacy model built on united partnership and unwavering determination to pass the ADA. As Senator Harkin predicted, it was a long and challenging journey. When the legislation stalled in Congress, the advocacy community united in force-writing, organizing, testifying, protesting at the Capitol, crawling up the steps, and demanding Congress listen.
Twenty-five years ago, this committed persistence pushed the ADA through its final hurdle. On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the legislation into law. At the signing, he reflected on the “strong and inspiring coalition” that made the “new historic civil right a reality.”
Decades later, ADA advocacy continues to serve as an inspiring model for the aging and disability community as we work together to advance our shared goals. Personally, reading about the disability rights community’s unrelenting commitment to the law, despite significant challenges, is tremendously inspiring. Though I’m too young to remember the advocacy of the early ‘90s, I see the influence of the movement on the disability and aging advocates who work together today. The values of partnership and focus on a shared goal remain critical as we work together to fully realize the ADA’s goals.
This summer, as advocates celebrate the ADA’s anniversary, not only do we commemorate the law’s progress, but the incredible resolve of the advocates who developed the law.
In Justice in Aging’s new brief, ADA at 25: Aging Advocates Celebrate Partnership and Progress, we reflect on incredible advocacy behind the passage and implementation of the ADA and highlight key areas where the ADA continues to shape the environment, care, and services for older adults.