ADA 30th Anniversary: Honor, Commitment & Hope


An acquaintance who was in the White House on the day President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law recounted the story that President Bush came to the group to say that he was finishing up some details about the ADA with troubled transportation companies and agencies, but assured the group he would sign the bill by the end of the day. There is much gratitude for President George H.W. Bush for his honor and commitment. 


Early on during the many ADA campaigns and rallies held in Washington I was charged with chartering an Amtrak train to take a couple of hundred people from New Jersey to Washington.  Amtrak was accommodating, taking out the seats and providing tie downs to accommodate over 100 people who were wheelchair users.  We called our train the “Freedom Train.” One could feel the hope and joy from everyone on the train. This is only one example of the work of thousands of disabled people who consistently met the call to show up in Washington to move the ADA forward.  There is much gratitude to all those who contributed in many ways.


My life has been most impacted by two pieces of legislation, The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.  Both President Johnson and President Bush showed us what a President should do at a time of decision, even when it is difficult work to move people; it is our President we must depend on to act on behalf of the rights of the American people.  There have been many conversations as to what moved either man in their commitment to sign the legislation. For me, all the differences in how and why they came to those commitments are what make us human. Both pieces of legislation still need work and attentiveness. We have celebrated both Acts, for what feels like a long time, however they are still in infancy, and like babies, they need our constant attention.  There is much “unfinished business” for both Acts. Let us require civil rights and disability rights advocates to include each other’s work front and center in the intersection of their missions.

Jane Dunhamn, Director NBDC