The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. Despite its indelible mark on the country’s legal landscape, when the original version of the ADA was introduced in 1988, most Americans were not even fully aware of the need for comprehensive civil rights for people with disabilities. However, the history of the ADA did not begin when it was passed, or even in 1988. It began decades earlier when people with disabilities determined to challenge the social barriers excluding them from daily life, and when parents of children with disabilities endeavored to fight the exclusion and segregation of their children in schools. It began with the rise of what we now call the independent living movement, led by activist Ed Roberts, which challenged the wrongheaded notion that people with disabilities must be institutionalized and fought for the provision of services allowing people to stay in their own communities. Civil rights activists with disabilities both visible and invisible conducted sit-ins in federal buildings, marched through the streets, and even organized the obstruction of non-accessible buses.
As we commemorate the signing of the ADA into law this year and reflect on the positive societal changes from disability rights legislation, we should reflect also on how much farther we have to go together. Keeping in mind the work left to be done, we recognize and celebrate the diversity of abilities within the Buchalter family and within the communities that nurtured us.