ANCOR in the News - 12.05.21

ANCOR Reflects on the Legacy of Disability Rights Advocate and Kansas Senator Bob Dole

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Black and white photo of Senator Bob Dole accepting an award from ANCOR, presented by then-CEO Joni Fritz and then-President Terry Perl (circa 1981)

Senator Bob Dole (left) accepting an award from ANCOR, presented by
then-CEO Joni Fritz and then-President Terry Perl (c. 1981)


ALEXANDRIA, VA. — ANCOR is mourning in light of the news that longtime disability rights advocate, Kansas Senator Bob Dole, passed away on Sunday at the age of 98.

Inspired to champion disability rights by his personal experience of sustaining a life-altering disability after being struck by enemy fire while serving in World War II, Senator Dole made the inclusion of people with disabilities a cornerstone of his storied career in public service.

In his very first speech on the floor of the Senate in 1969, Senator Dole spoke passionately about the ways in which our country needed to do better by people with disabilities whose lives had been marked by exclusion from opportunity. Dole was also an early co-sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and his bipartisan leadership is widely regarded as instrumental to the passage of that landmark legislation. And, in 1996, Dole became perhaps the first major party candidate to make disability rights a hallmark of a presidential campaign platform.

Senator Dole’s advocacy for the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities extended beyond our national borders as well. In the mid-1990s, his advocacy led to the establishment of what would later become the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Even in the latest years of his life, Senator Dole spent a great deal of effort advocating that the United States ratify the Convention.

“The disability community lost a giant on Sunday with the passing of Senator Dole,” said Heidi Mansir, president of the ANCOR Board of Directors. “Few policymakers have left as pronounced an impact on the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities as has Senator Dole, and I have no doubt that his absence from our community will be felt profoundly.”

Barbara Merrill, ANCOR’s chief executive officer, added, “I know I speak for everyone who considers themselves part of the disability community when I say that Senator Dole’s loss reverberates deeply. As we reflect on his legacy of championing inclusion for all people, we are reminded that we owe a significant debt of gratitude for his leadership in Washington and beyond.”

Although ANCOR is confident that Senator Dole’s legacy will continue to resonate in the work of so many disability rights advocates, that cannot change the fact that mourning his loss will be incredibly difficult for Senator Dole’s family, friends and loved ones. All those who were impacted by Senator Dole’s life are in our hearts as our nation mourns his loss.