Iowa’s U.S. Senator Tom Harkin introduced a bill numbered S.933 on May 9, 1988. It was the final version of the bill that became the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush twenty-six years ago today (photo above).
Back in 1988, Sen. Harkin delivered part of his speech introducing the bill in ASL for his brother, who was deaf. Representative Patricia Schroeder said at the time, “What we did for civil rights in the ’60s, we forgot to do for people with disabilities.”
Advocates for the disabled had started to fight for such legislation several years before. After S.933 was introduced, the Senate took more than a year to consider the legislation; it finally passed the Senate on September 7, 1989 by a 76-8 vote. And then it went to the House. And there it sat.
By the spring of 1990, America’s disabled had had enough: several hundred showed up at the United States Capitol, dropped their crutches and left their wheelchairs, and commenced to climb, pull themselves up, and crawl the 100 steps to the Capitol’s doors. They called it the “Capitol Crawl,” and it got everyone’s attention:
The House passed it on May 22, 1990, the joint committees passed it soon after, and the reconciled bill was passed by the Senate by a 91-6 vote on July 13, 1990. Signed on this date in 1990, it gave and gives the disabled access to public facilities that had been denied them: wheelchair ramps are on public buildings, ASL interpreters are available in courtrooms and during government hearings at every level, voting booths have Braille options. Many private American businesses chose to follow suit even without any mandate to do so.
Sen. Harkin has since retired. He can be included among the very few legislators who actually brought a law into peoples’ lives and came to see positive effects follow. As a disabled man, the ADA is an important law for me. I did not know that it would be important for me back on this date in 1990.
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William Jennings Bryan died on this date in 1925, five days after winning the Scopes Trial, in which he argued against the teaching of evolution in school. Governor W. Averell Harriman died 30 years ago today. Brent Mydland died on this date in 1990. “Tons of Steel,” by Mydland:
Governor George W. Romney died in 1995 on this date.
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George Bernard Shaw was born 160 years ago today. Carl Jung was born on this date in 1875. Aldous Huxley was born on this date in 1894. Jean Shepherd was born on this date in 1921. Jason Robards was born in 1922 on this date. Hoyt Wilhelm was born on this date in 1922. James Best was born 90 years ago today. Stanley Kubrick was born in 1928 on this date.
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Darlene Love is 75 today. Introducing Darlene Love, her latest album, came out last year, and she is touring with it:
Sir Mick Jagger is 73 today. Dame Helen Mirren is 71 today. Roger Taylor is 67. Dorothy Hamill is 60 today. Kevin Spacey is 57. Rick Bragg is 57. Sandra Bullock is 52. Jeremy Piven is 51.
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