ADA 29 is a Day to Lead On

ADA is twenty-nine years old and we are still working to progress the law in our communities and celebrate its strength. This week in Washington, D.C., we celebrated to remember it and work to strengthen it.

Some people think that Washington D.C., is a place where people get nothing done. Although if you work with people in the disability community who work daily on advocating their rights, then that phrase does not hold water. 

This past week, I attended the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) 29th celebration with NCIL (National Council on Independent Living) conference and the AAPD (Association of People with Disabilities) reception for Quantum and Pride. We have supported NCIL for over 11 years. I love attending NCIL and AAPD events because I can see my colleagues and friends. I can meet and speak with our leaders who support disability rights and inclusion. I can learn more about disability rights so we can help advance the lives of 61 million Americans.

The ADA celebrations are held the week of July 26in Washington D.C., to celebrate this civil rights legislation for people who have disabilities. I invited my friend Karen Roy who works for NuMotion to join me at the AAPD event.

Karen is an amazing advocate and she is the former Ms. Wheelchair America 2019.  I told her just follow me and you will see why these leaders rock the world. I had to giggle at her as she met her hero Judith Huemann as we were talking to Andy Imparato.  Karen also got a quick photo op with Congressman Joe Kennedy who is Ted Kennedy Jr.’s cousin.  She was up front to hear Speaker Pelosi address the crowd and meet two of my favorites, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer and Claudia Gordon. I believe that advocacy is a team effort and I was so happy to have Karen as my guest and meet the people I care so deeply for.

It is always wonderful to see my friends and colleagues at these events such as Kelly Buckland (NCIL Director), Elizabeth Leef, Susan Rotchy and many more of the amazing leaders who attended NCIL. My treat at this event was a few moments speaking with Senator Tom Harkin (ADA author and Senate sponsor) at the NCIL luncheon.  I couldn’t believe when he told me he was from Rock Springs, Wyoming, also. Who knew? 

Today, 29 years after passing the ADA, Justin Dart is remembered in each “lead on” quote or hashtag as a strong reminder to promote disability civil rights. If not for the stories of how legislation can benefit society then we have no cause, and Justin Dart’s cause is still prevailing on this ADA anniversary.

Today, Yoshiko Dart, Justin Dart’s wife, keeps his legacy alive and brightly shining on, as she herself has become an icon for her work with people with disabilities nationally and internationally.

My friend Marca Bristo received the Max Starkloff Lifetime Achievement Award this year at the NCIL Conference. Anyone who knows Marca understands her commitment to her community and knows that this award was well deserved as she has been on the front lines since the beginning of the ADA and continues in her work all over the world.

These leaders and their commitment to the success of the ADA is why the sidewalks are accessible and how employment is possible. It is the most comprehensive civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, employment, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.

This is why we celebrate the ADA and those who worked and continue to work to keep the ADA strong. So why is the ADA and its history so important and why is its future important? Because it is the foundation to many issues that surround independence and the basic equal rights for so many. Because as, Justin Dart would say, “lead on” and “vote as if your life depends on it, because it does.”

About Madonna Long: Madonna works as a disability advocate to educate policymakers and congressional leaders on disability issues. She is a mother to four children and lives life on her terms, despite a spinal cord injury. Click here to learn more about Madonna.