Yesterday, healthcare leaders, civil rights activists, and allies joined The Independence Center virtual 30th-anniversary celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.
The attendees heard from speakers regarding experiences before and after the ADA, and the challenges that Americans with disabilities still experience today. Speakers included:
Patricia Yeager, CEO, The Independence Center
Judy Heumann, Renowned Disability Rights Advocate
Tony Gannett, CEO, Draper Commons
Andrew Winders, Supervisor, Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Serina Gilbert, MA CRC, Regional Lead Counselor for Transitioning Youth, Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Julie Reiskin, Executive Director, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition Service
Paul O’Brien, Colorado Development Director, Canine Companions for Independence Accessibility
Mayor John Suthers, City of Colorado Springs
Heather Skold, KRDO Anchor News Channel 13, as Master of Ceremonies
Thank you to all the speakers, The Independence Center, and their team for making this event a success! The Independence Center is the local Colorado Springs home of civil rights for people with disabilities. Equinox HIT was proud to be a table sponsor for this event.
Barriers still exist, want to get involved?
Learn more here
Do you know why the ADA is needed?
Some disability rights were established through laws, such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 addressing Federal program discrimination, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975 addressing the availability of free appropriate public education, however, lack of enforcement, rights, and segregation still existed. Before the ADA, many Americans with disabilities were still institutionalized, heavily medicated, segregated, neglected, and abused. Additionally, public transportation, schools, restaurants, public restrooms, and many other public locations were not accessible. Civil rights groups, activists, and allies across the nation fought for change in many different ways during the disability rights movement that resulted in the ADA.
For example, in 1975, Atlantis Community Inc. was formed in Denver, Colorado, a group of community activists that fought for civil rights through litigation and anti-segregation efforts. The first priority was housing projects, moving people out of nursing homes into independent living. Atlantis became successful in this tremendous effort in June of 1975 and is still an independent community living center today. The second priority was accessible transportation. The Regional Transportation District (RTD), the public transit service in Denver, bought a fleet of buses in the 1970s that was not accessible. Atlantis contacted them about accessibility and sued with the argument that if Americans are being taxed for bus services, they should have access to ride. However, they lost the lawsuit, a catalyst for protesting by Atlantis community members referred to as "the gang of nineteen."
On June 5, 1978, at Colfax and Broadway, near Denver's capital building, this group staged a sit-in surrounding an RTD bus chanting, " We want a ride" and "We will ride" that lasted into the next day. The police refused to arrest anyone with a visible disability and only arrested the personal attendants. These are people that help with the personal needs of daily living due to a disability. After the protest, Atlantis sued the city for removing the personal attendants but not the protesters with disabilities and won. A big step toward equality.
In 1983 the American Disabled for American Public Transportation (ADAPT) was created. In 1986 enactment of the ADA was recommended, and in 1988 the first draft was introduced to Congress by the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency whose members are appointed by the President and Congress, but hit a standstill.
ADAPT and other activists came together on March 12, 1990, at the nation's capital, where activists with physical disabilities climbed the capital's stairs to demonstrate the need for the ADA. The demonstration was effective as the need for accessibility became glaring, and the Congressman agreed to sign the previously stagnated bill. On July 26, 1990, the ADA was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush. The ADA protects those with a disability, defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.
Want to learn more about the history of this civil rights movement?
Read Judy Heumann's 2020 book "Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist"
Watch Netflix 2020 documentary "Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution"
Watch Rocky Mountain Public Broadcast Systems 2018 documentary "The Gang of 19- ADA Movement"