Posted by: gravessack | December 6, 2018

The Passing Of A Disability Icon

Former President George H.W. Bush with American flag in background, and text reading "George H.W. Bush: 1924-2018"When he moved into the Oval Office on January 20, 1989, George Herbert Walker Bush wanted to drive the nation in a different direction. That meant he would have to generate bold ideas. For people who have disabilities, his agenda would deliver an extraordinary moment. The next year, on July 26, Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on the South Lawn of the White House.

The ADA was a sweeping measure that would help millions of children and adults with various disabilities live lives free of discrimination. Bush, a World War II Navy pilot, passed away on November 30 at the age of 94 after a battle of Vascular Parkinsonism in Houston, Texas.

Unlike some Republicans today, Bush realized the importance of bringing people together and helping Americans seek what they deserve. When Ronald Reagan was the leader of the country, the ADA had been stuck in a Senate committee. With his smooth conversational skills in tow, Bush had several meetings with legislators hashing out the details. Suddenly, the bill, which was credited to Tom Harkin (D-IA), gained steam on June 12, 1990, as the House easily passed the amended legislation. The next day, the Senate approved the measure on a 91-6 count. More than a month later, it became law.

The ADA has five main titles: employment, public entities, public accommodations, telecommunications, and miscellaneous. Former President George H.W. Bush signinBasically, each title provides in-depth descriptions on what an American with an impairment has the right to. For example, Title 1 states that a business can’t deny an applicant a job only because they are disabled. Moreover, in Title 3, it says all new construction projects must follow the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines. The Act is long and detailed.

When Bush’s son, George W., was President, the ADA went through a revision in September of 2008. The changes expanded the definition of “disability”, making the law available to more citizens. A Senate Committee deemed the change in the law “makes it absolutely clear that the ADA is intended to provide broad coverage to protect anyone who faces discrimination on the basis of disability.”

There is a prime illustration of Bush’s premier disability victory right here in Minnesota. In 1982, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome opened in Downtown Minneapolis. The building was frightening in regards to accessibility; few handicap entrances, two small public elevators, under 300 accessible seats. The Twins learned from the ADA when designing Target Field in the mid-2000s. Today, Target Field has six wheelchair-friendly gates, over 750 handicapped seats, and a whopping 13 elevators that patrons can use. That is just one instance of the ways the ADA changed accessibility.

However, much more needs to be done to complete George H.W. Bush’s agenda. Several businesses and access to employment are still not up to par with the ADA standards. To honor Bush, Americans could do little gestures enforcing the directive. Meanwhile, in Congress, Republicans need to realize that they have an opportunity to show the compassion Bush once had. One way they could do that is to start suggesting improvements in order to enhance this very crucial law to fulfill his dream of equal access for all!

Too many people in the disability community, Bush will be remembered for making the country accessible and establishing guidelines for the betterment of disabled citizens. Most certainly, the Massachusetts native deserves to be honored during the festivities celebrating the 29th anniversary of the ADA, which will be just over seven months from now.

Thank you, Bush, for seeing the ADA over the finish line, so everybody can have opportunities to succeed in society!

Written by: Michael L. Sack

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Responses

  1. Great article! I didn’t know it was HW Bush who signed the ADA into law. Cool!


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