Capitol Correspondence - 07.25.23

An Enduring Legacy: 33 Years of the ADA’s Bipartisan Impact

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President George H.W. Bush signing the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Photo credit George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
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As the month of July comes to a close, ANCOR commemorates the 33rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Enacted into law on July 26, 1990, the ADA has left an indelible mark on the lives of millions of Americans with disabilities, championing their rights and empowering them to fully participate in their communities. As we, the members of the disability rights community, reflect on this momentous occasion, it is crucial to delve not only into the key provisions and achievements of this groundbreaking legislation but also to recognize the remarkable bipartisan history that led to its enactment.

The journey toward the enactment of the ADA is an often-forgotten story and a testament to the power of bipartisanship and the united pursuit of justice. Spearheaded by Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa, and Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, the ADA garnered overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle. Together, they championed the cause of disability rights, recognizing that this pivotal legislation transcended political divisions and touched the lives of countless Americans.

The collaborative efforts extended to all corners of Congress, as senators and representatives from diverse backgrounds recognized the moral imperative of safeguarding the rights and dignity of individuals with disabilities. Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy and Republican Senator Bob Dole were among the instrumental figures who played crucial roles in pushing the legislation forward. It was their dedication and unwavering commitment that allowed the ADA to progress steadily through the legislative process.

In July 1990, the ADA was signed into law by Republican President George H.W. Bush, uniting both Republicans and Democrats in celebration of a historic achievement. This landmark legislation was a manifestation of the shared belief that every individual, regardless of ability, deserves equal opportunities and access to public life.

The ADA’s enduring legacy is a testament to the lasting impact that bipartisan collaboration can have on the lives of millions. It signified that when individuals from across the political spectrum come together, great strides can be made toward a more just and inclusive society.