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ADA: What It Says
The Declaration of Independence recognizes that all persons are endowed with basic human rights. Our nation's history has witnessed the gradual, yet steady, march towards fulfillment of this guarantee. In the past generation this march has accelerated. The American people have wisely acted to eliminate irrational and artificial barriers based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Now, the Americans with Disabilities Act has set this country's sights on removing the barriers that deny individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to share in the American dream.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, is thus truly a landmark civil rights bill. It will open up all aspects of American life to individuals with disabilities--employment opportunities, State and local government services, public accommodations, transportation, and the telephone system.
The first version of the ADA was developed by the National Council on Disability under the leadership of Chairperson Sandra Parrino, and Director Lex Frieden, who coordinated the writing of the Act. In February 1986, the Council issued a report, "Toward Independence," that recommended enactment of a comprehensive law requiring equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities, and outlined the ADA. The bill, sponsored jointly by Senator Lowell Weicker and Representative Tony Coelho, was introduced in 1988 during the 100th Congress. Justin Dart, Jr., in his role as chairperson of the Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of Americans with Disabilities, raised public awareness of the devastating effects of discrimination on the basis of disability and built support for the goals of the ADA by holding 63 hearings on the ADA in every State in this country. During the 1988 Presidential election campaign, then-Vice President George Bush endorsed the ADA and became its chief advocate.
The ADA was reintroduced, in a modified form, in May 1989 by Senators Tom Harkin, Edward Kennedy, and Dave Durenberger and by Representatives Tony Coelho, Hamilton Fish, and Steny Hoyer. In June, 1989, Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, in testimony before the United States Senate, reiterated the support of the Bush Administration for the ADA. After extensive negotiations between the Senate and the Administration, the Senate passed an amended version of the ADA on September 7, 1989, by a vote of 76-8.
The House …