Happy Birthday ADA! 25 Years of Success with Many More to Come.Published on
Wishing the Americans with Disabilities Act a Happy Silver Anniversary!
Happy birthday, ADA! On Sunday July 26, 2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act and we’re proud to celebrate with so many Americans whose lives have been improved by it.
When President George H. W. Bush signed the act, he said something that sadly, rang true for many, he said: “let the shameful wall of exclusion, finally come tumbling down.” Often times individuals with disabilities are excluded from many of the same things that others do and take for granted every day. From walking up a flight of stairs, to being able to read your own bank statements when they come in the mail- without laws like the ADA these “shameful walls” would still be hurting many.
Today we are renewing our commitment to “Making the World a More Readable Place™” and encourage you to think about accessibility and inclusion in your own lives and businesses. Doing simple things like making sure your companies documents can be read by those with visual impairments, whether if be with braille, large print or even audio, shows others that you care in a very meaningful way.
When it comes to documents, we’ve got you covered there. But if you really want to reach out and make more a difference, then We the People, all need to do everything we can to continue to tear down these walls of exclusion.
Let us know other simple ways that people can reach out, tell us how you’re already making a difference and maybe we can all help it catch on and move forward.
Show Your Support by Signing the Pledge to Recommit to Full Implementation of the ADA
Visit the ADA Anniversary website or click on the image below to sign the pledge.
Video Transcript from the Americans with Disabilities Act Signing Ceremony
[Background music plays.]
On the day Bush signed the ADA we convinced him that we should make it a great big celebration because so many people are directly affected by the passage of the ADA.
Well, it was a glorious day, July 26th, 1990. There was a clear blue sky, the sun was out, there were three or four thousand people. Many with disabilities and their families on the South Lawn of the White House. And the President was on a platform with leaders of the disability community to sign the bill into law.
I don’t know how you describe the signing ceremony. We had people everywhere. They were on gurneys, white canes, wheelchairs, walkers, and seeing eye dogs. I mean any device that helps people get around was represented that day.
We covered the White House lawn for sure. The most people ever gathered on the White House lawn for a signing was July 26, 1990. Never been that many people there for a signing of a bill before. Biggest group ever in the history of this country.
I had the pleasure and the real privilege to arrive to the ADA signing ceremony with John McCain. So we drove right into the White House and then we walked outside and became part of the masses. The South Lawn was packed with people. All of them there had worked and worked and worked to see a law pass. So it was a shining day and a shining moment [smiling]. And I mean history and the weather just cooperated in a way you don’t see very often.
I sat with Senator Kennedy, 89th row back or something like that. And you know all the pomp and circumstance again and we were sitting with each other and kind of looking over the crowd and Kennedy leaned over to me and said, “Uh, Pat..?” I said, “Yes, Senator?” Senator Kennedy, “Uh, I got a little problem here.” I said, “What’s that Senator?” He goes, “Uh, what happens if he reads the bill before he signs it?” [Pat laughs] I said, “Don’t worry.” I mean the senator knew that nobody really understood the impact of what this piece of legislation was going to do.
President Bush, “I now lift my pen to sign this American Disabilities Act.” And then the President ended his brief remarks with a clarion call: let the shameful wall. Bush: “Let the Shameful Wall…of exclusion, finally come tumbling down.” That sent a tremor through the entire crowd. [cheering]
Best moment was President Bush was there, he was signing the ADA, Evan Kemp was on one side, Sandra Parrino was on the other side and there was a priest, Reverend Wilkie, and he had no arms. So the President signs the legislation and then he hands the pen to Evan, hands the pen to Sandy, and then President Bush hands the pen to Reverend Wilkie with no arms. So he picks up his foot and grabs it with his toes [smiling]. That’s the perfect moment right there.
There was a lot of pent-up emotion and anticipation in that crowd. And when the President finally put his signature on the bill a great roar of approval went up. It was extraordinarily special.
And then the rest of the day was given over to celebration. A lot of folks who had put in years, decades trying to reach the point that was achieved that day. Let their hair down and had a lot of fun. [smiling] It was just this feeling of, we did it! I mean here we were having been told for so long how powerless we were and here we were with the President of the United States signing this document that is our Emancipation Proclamation essentially.
It was just a fantastic feeling. It was one of the most electric moments in time. It was like we were transported to another place. We were twenty feet off the ground. 3,000 people were twenty feet off the ground. It was like a tremendous party and very controlled. I mean love, respect, joy, accomplishment, satisfaction, our time had come. We finally, we finally were recognized as citizens of the world.
I just thought of how much my brother had been discriminated against all his life because of his disability. When you see something like this and you see the President signing it and it goes through your head, you’re thinking about this. You think, “Well, maybe this isn’t the time to help my brother, but you think about how many other people won’t have to go through that, you know?
Because of this I just thought, you know, gee, this is something that I think is going to unleash a lot of people with disabilities in this country. to do things that they never thought they could do before. I have the sense that the moment was one that I would never forget. That there was a ceremony. And the ceremony was very important, but the moment was much more than that. The moment was a recognition of the rights and abilities of people with disabilities. A recognition of respect for people with disabilities. A recognition of the end of discrimination against people with disabilities and that…the spirit of that the feeling of the whole crowd was that.
In American Sign Language there’s a sign for that and the sign is [sign, move two index fingers to head and and then points them back out]. It’s called “PAW.” Paw that’s how you you make a sound when you sign it, “PAW.” And that was a “PAH” day. That was the day that you guys saw us as your peers and not as someone who needed your help.
[Fade to black screen, credits roll]
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