Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Harkin on ADA Anniversary

See this op-ed he wrote, which begins:

Today, in ceremonies and speeches across the nation, people will celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It will be saluted as one of the great civil-rights laws of the 20th century - a long-overdue emancipation proclamation for people with disabilities.

But as chief sponsor of the law, I never lose sight of the seemingly mundane changes it has made possible. I remember, during the long campaign to pass ADA, explaining to a young woman in a wheelchair how the law would open new opportunities in education and employment. She said, "Senator, I know that's important. But I just want the freedom to go out and buy a pair of shoes, just like anybody else."

How soon we forget that before ADA, Americans with disabilities routinely faced prejudice, discrimination, and exclusion - not to mention an obstacle course of physical barriers to movement in their everyday lives. My late brother Frank, who was deaf, was sent far from home to a "school for the deaf and dumb" (yes, people routinely used this offensive term - and worse), and later was offered just three job possibilities: baker, printer's assistant or cobbler.


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