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ADA: The Advocates
Senator Tom Harkin
We won! The ADA is now the law of the land. From now on, Americans with disabilities will be treated as first-class citizens. Today, we say "no" to ignorance, and "no" to prejudice. Segregation is finished! Inequality is finished! Today, we say "yes" to dignity and respect for disabled people; "yes" to empowerment; and "yes" to judging people on abilities, not disabilities. The ADA truly is the 20th century emancipation proclamation for people with disabilities.
The ADA is now the law of the land because of the vision and extraordinary efforts by the disability community. You knew in your hearts what we now write into law--that discrimination on the basis of disability is wrong. You fought together as a community, singing in the streets that "people united will never be defeated."
This is your bill, and you've earned it. I applaud you.
With the passage of the ADA, we as a Nation make a pledge that every person with a disability will have the opportunity to maximize his or her potential and to live proud, productive, and prosperous lives in the mainstream of our society. We say, "Whatever you decide as your goal, go for it!" The doors are open and the barriers are coming down!
I Will Never Forget the Joy
I thank Senator Harkin for the opportunity to work on this landmark legislation, and I thank the disability community for their trust in me through some very difficult times. As long as I live I will never forget the joy I felt the day ADA passed.
The purpose of the ADA bill is to provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing all forms of discrimination against individuals on the basis of disability.
Discrimination is sometimes the result of prejudice; sometimes it is the result of patronizing attitudes; and still other times it is the result of thoughtlessness or indifference. But whatever its origin, the results are the same: segregation, exclusion, or the denial of equal, effective and meaningful opportunities to participate in programs and activities.
Discrimination affects all categories of people with disabilities, including those with mobility impairments, sensory impairments, mental retardation, and other physical and mental impairments. It affects those who have hidden disabilities such as cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease and mental illness; people who have a history of a disability but are no longer disabled; persons who have been incorrectly classified as having a disability; and those who do not have a disability but who are treated or perceived by others as having a disability.
Pollster Lou Harris recently found that "not working" is perhaps the truest definition of what it means to be disabled in America. Ending discrimination will have the direct impact of reducing the Federal government's expenditure of $57 billion annually on disability benefits and programs that are premised on dependency of the individual with a disability. It will also have the immediate effect of making people with disabilities into consumers and taxpayers.
The Culmination of Decades of Struggle
The Americans with Disabilities Act is the most sweeping federal civil rights legislation enacted by Congress since the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. The ADA is an extraordinary example of the effectiveness of broad-based coalitions in shaping social reform and represents the culmination of decades of struggle for equality by people with disabilities. The ADA, for the first time, confers equal citizenship status on people with disabilities in the United States. Not only does this legislation guarantee the right of people with disabilities to be free from discrimination in employment, public accommodations, public services, transportation, and telecommunications, it also sends a powerful message to societies throughout the world that the United States will no longer tolerate the exclusion and isolation of people with disabilities based on stereotype and prejudice. The ADA is the symbol and the substance of the Disability Rights Movement.
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan
Enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act is a milestone and an accomplishment of major proportions. Persons with disabilities as a class are now equal to all other persons, both as a matter of fact and as a matter of law. However, much remains to be done. The law is just the beginning. It is a framework for the future. The barriers of social prejudice will only crumble as we work to make the rights provided by the law a reality in our everyday lives and our hearts.
Senator Orrin Hatch
The Time Has Come
The time has come. Congress has sent a loud, clear message across this country--individuals with disabilities, no less than other Americans, are entitled to an equal opportunity to participate in the American dream. That dream can now become a reality.
The "Americans with Disabilities Act" is the most sweeping piece of civil rights legislation since the Civil War era.
Persons with disabilities, through their hard work and self-determination, have already made great advances and successfully destroyed many of the stereotypes which have been used to deny them equal opportunities in the past. More can still be done.
This now will be accomplished with the ADA bill.
A Significant Evolution
ADA represents a significant accomplishment in the evolution of society's views and treatment of people with disabilities. It is a profound tribute to unity and leadership of people with disabilities. It will predictably affect the lives of millions of people with disabilities in the United States, but more significantly, it has the potential to affect the attitudes and behavior of the public at large throughout the world.
Nonetheless, ADA is but one node in a continuum of progress, and it pales in relation to the extant overwhelming service and survival needs of people with disabilities. Ultimately, the full impact of ADA will be realized only after the majority of people with disabilities gain access to certain basic services like attendant care, readers, interpreters, transportation, housing assistance, affordable health care, and medical and vocational rehabilitation. Formless as liquid in a vacuum, the concept of equality has little meaning for people who struggle to survive without the resources necessary to meet fundamental human needs.
Rep. Steve Bartlett
Declaration of Independence
This bill is about the 43 million Americans who are today being denied their civil rights and have been for 214 years. Americans with mental retardation, with mental illness, with severe physical limitations, with speech, language and hearing disabilities. It is their declaration of independence.
ADA will empower people to control their own lives. It will result in a cost savings to the Federal Government. As we empower people to be independent, to control their own lives, to gain their own employment, their own income, their own housing, their own transportation, taxpayers will save substantial sums from the alternatives.
A New Beginning
ADA heralds a new beginning for the 43 million Americans with disabilities and their families . . . its provisions will shape the lives of those with disabilities for decades to come.
While critical to the lives of many persons with disabilities, such vital Federal …