Senate ADA Amendments Act Introduced with 56 Co-Sponsors


Senators Harkin and Hatch have introduced the ADA Amendments Act – S. 3406 – with 56 original cosponsors! 


While we will have to work hard to gain even more support in the Senate, ADA Watch and the National Coalition for Disability Rights (NCDR) thanks the state and local organizers and thousands of grassroots supporters who took part in our Road To Freedom bus stop events to support restoration of the ADA; signed our petition; attracted widespread media attention to the need for restoration; and utilized our ADA Restoration Action Center to send thousands of messages calling on Congress to respond to the narrowing of the ADA in the courts.


While there is more that we will have to do next year to restore the ADA, we fully support passage of the ADA Amendments Act.


The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 will restore the civil rights of people with disabilities by:


  • Specifically rejecting restrictive interpretations by the Supreme Court that have reduced theprotections for people with disabilities under the ADA
  • Directing that the definition of “disability” must be construed broadly, to cover anyone who is discriminated against on the basis of disability. 
  • Clarifying the definition of disability, to more clearly prohibit discrimination against people with physical or mental impairments.
  • Prohibiting consideration of an individual’s ability to mitigate the effect of a disability (e.g., by taking medications) in determining whether she is eligible for protection from discrimination. 
  • Covering individuals who experience discrimination based on a perception that they have an impairment regardless of whether they have a disability.

Here is the list of origional co-sponsors of the Senate ADA Amendments Act:

Harkin, Hatch, Kennedy, Enzi, Specter, Obama, McCain, Dodd, Gregg, Clinton, Alexander, Johnson, Roberts, Kerry, Coleman, Feingold, Snowe, Leahy, Burr, Brown, Smith, Durbin, Murkowski, Lautenberg, Warner, Sanders, Brownback, Reed, Martinez, Mikulski, Isakson, Casey, Craig, Murray, Bennett, Landrieu, Collins, Biden, Allard, Nelson, Sununu, Cardin, Thune, Levin, Barrasso, McCaskill, Crapo, Schumer, Stevens, Salazar, Voinovich, Tester, Cochran, Reid, Luger, Chambliss.

If your both your senators are not on this list, contact them and ask them to support the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. If one or both of your senators are co-sponsors, call them and thank them for supporting the civil rights of people with disabilities.

The ADA Watch/NCDR Board and State Steering Committee announced, in a show of unity with other disability organizations, its support of the ADA Amendments Act.


This is not, however, the ADA Restoration Act we all worked so hard on and it is quickly moving forward without the support of key disability rights organizations and leaders. The concerns being voiced come from many who were vital in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (, for example, as part of an analysis posted on their website, states that:


“Passage of the current deal will improve the status quo for many, but it will also mean that the opportunity to correct the paradigm to remove severity as a factor of coverage and include many more who are currently unable to use the ADA because they are not considered “disabled enough” will be lost or indefinitely delayed as the new provisions are interpreted up the judicial ladder.”


[The medical severity test evokes eligibility criteria for benefits programs, an area of law that the courts encounter more frequently, rather than supporting a civil rights interpretation. The severity of disability should be irrelevant to whether the plaintiff’s impairment resulted in discrimination. The ADA Restoration Act, unlike the ADA Amendments Act, would remove a medical severity test, allowing any person with an actual or perceived impairment the opportunity to show that he or she was subjected to an adverse action on the basis of that impairment.]


ADA Watch/NCDR spend more than18 months on the Road To Freedom bus traveling the United States to promote the original ADA Restoration Act and, in addition to working in coalition with organizations, we have been preparing to build unity and advance a shared disability rights agenda. [See below for what we have been cooking up] But, in the final weeks of this process, we held our public tongue along with AAPD, NCIL, and other national organizations at the request of disability negotiators who were in “delicate” negotiations with the business community.


Well now those negotiations are over, there is a deal that does not allow for any strengthening of the bill by our supporters in Congress, and there is little time to use this process to build community or change public consciousness about disability rights. There also seems to be, in this process, a missed opportunity.


As this process unfolded, ADA Watch/NCDR was at the table and, like others, expressed our concerns regarding content, process and timing. While many say that this is the best deal that could be had in the current environment, and while the Congressional leadership forced us into negotiations with business lobbying groups before it went to the floor, it seems that we, as a community, could have done more to soften the ground leading to these negotiations. A more cohesive and inclusive campaign, much like the one that led to the initial passage of the ADA, could have produced greater unity in our community and capitalized on all of our strengths — from the grassroots advocates to the legal teams, from our lobbyists to our media experts, and more.


ADA Watch/NCDR was praised by the disability negotiators for the extensive media we received in publicly making the case for ADA Restoration on the Road To Freedom bus tour. While we appreciate the praise, the reality is that we have one of the smallest budgets of any national organization – less than the yearly CEO salaries of some of the larger organizations. The fact that we received the bulk of media coverage in the year prior to this deal leaves us wondering what might have been had there been the will to fund either our campaign or another centralized effort to compete against the well-organized campaign of our opponents. While we often say that we are a poor community and that we can never compete with the well-funded corporate lobbyists, the reality is that – while our constituency is poor – there are billions of dollars being raised annually in the name of disability. Isn’t it time that a larger share of those funds went to publically promote the ADA and disability rights – not as charity, not as sympathy, not just as research or cure – but as fundamental civil and human rights.


As we learned in traveling around the country, and as you surely know, we are not winning in the media. More times than not, the ADA is covered as “big government putting ‘Mom and Pop’ stores out of business.” (Never mind that this is fiction and that, more times than not, we are talking about multinational corporations!) These stories are generated directly from the news releases from corporate lobbying groups and associations. When the original ADA Restoration Act was introduced these groups took aim, even declaring that individuals with a “hangnail” were now going to be covered by the ADA! Outrageous as they sound, they have been very effective.


So we are left to guess how the negotiations might have been influenced were there an organized effort that matched or even exceeded that which led to the passage of the ADA in 1990. A campaign that drew fairly on the resources in our community. A campaign with earned and unearned media portraying the struggle for equal opportunity nearly 20 years after passage of the world’s first civil rights law for people with disabilities. Community organizing efforts to teach and build coalition in support of restoration. Maybe even an ADAPT action at the Chamber of Commerce after the “hangnail” remarks. A united community pushing for full restoration of the ADA.


While, as an organization, we are not second-guessing our colleagues and have expressed support for the ADA Amendments Act, it is difficult not to imagine the results of a more unified effort. One that, in addition to the considerable legal drafting and negotiations, put similar emphasis – and funding – on the other “prongs” of the social change “pitchfork.” That we could have gotten more seems evident in the now public sentiment of at least one of the business lobbyists involved in the negotiations. Randel Johnson, a vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, referring to the original ADA Restoration Act, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “We couldn’t beat this bill so there was a need for a compromise…”


Concerns about timing have also been raised in regard to sending this bill to President Bush, as the Administration responded to passage of the Act in the House with criticism that it “could unduly expand” coverage and significantly increase litigation. This criticism follows the Bush Administration’s release of federal regulations that many disability rights experts declare will further weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act. As disability rights attorney, Steve Gold reports, “On June 17, 2008, the Department of Justice issued proposed rules to the ADA’s federal regulations which, if adopted, will significantly undercut the original 1990 compromises and will impose numerous regressive restrictions. Many of the proposed rules will ensure that full accessibility will be, at best, postponed indefinitely.”


The process leading to passage of the ADA Amendments Act has undeniably taken a toll on our community. There are many divisions, many bruised egos, many damaged relationships. When the smoke clears, we hope there is an awareness that there remains a need for a unified campaign to change the “hearts and minds” of Americans regarding the ADA and disability rights. We don’t claim that our coalition alone is the answer to fill that need, but we hope that we can be a part of such an effort. And as we assess what happened, we should avoid the polarizing – and often self-serving – characterizations highlighting supposed dichotomies in our community such as “disabled”/nondisabled, lawyers/lay-advocates, Inside/Outside the Beltway, physical/mental disabilities, rights/research, and the like. This is not a time for further segregation but for greater unity.


This certainly is not our last legislative battle and many in our community have said that laws alone will not lead to the kind of social change we are seeking. The “missed opportunity” that many are seeing in this process will present itself again. Perhaps, however, we should not wait for the next battle and can commit now to greater unity and the fostering of a stronger disability community. Now, more than ever it seems, we need to join together behind a common agenda and we need to unite all aspects of what we call the “disability community.” We need to work together as national, state and local organizations; legal, non-legal and self-advocacy organizations; advocates and academics; youth organizations; rights and research organizations; student and educator organizations; parent and family organizations; aging organizations; as well as associated non-disability led civil rights and social justice organizations.


We can’t afford to exclude anybody who wants to get behind our vision of equality and opportunity for people with disabilities in America.


See below for what the National Coalition for Disability Rights (NCDR) has in the works for fostering “unity in the community” and changing public consciousness about disability rights. New membership information for NCDR has just been posted at:


What do you think? Contact ADA Watch/NCDR’s president, Jim Ward, directly and share your thoughts. He can be reached by email at and our mailing address is:


ADA Watch/National Coalition for Disability Rights
ATTN: Jim Ward
601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 900S
Washington, DC 20004


The National Coalition for Disability Rights Looks Ahead…


Here is a look at what we are working on to do our part in community organizing, coalition-building and public awareness. As always, we are seeking individual and organizational support to fulfill our mission. Please contact us if you have time and skills – or a financial contribution – that you would like to contribute to our effort. Along with organizers, media experts, writers and graphic designers, we are especially looking for technicians with experience in Joomla to put the finishing touches on our new online community news and action center.


Road To Freedom: Our “mobile marketing” bus continues to roll across America, spreading the message of disability rights as essential civil rights. We have traveled nearly 40,000 miles to every state. More than 100 bus stop media events have been produced in partnership with state and local disability organizations. These events have attracted extensive media attention and included Members of Congress, Governors, Mayors and other state and local policymakers. We are currently editing both a documentary film and book of the first year of this journey and disability rights history. Look for the Road To Freedom bus at the National Council on Independent Living conference in Washington, DC next month, where we will lead a convoy of vehicles to the National Forum on Disability Issues with the presidential candidates on July 26, the 18th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. To view photos from the road, go to:


National Agenda for Disability Rights: While some might define their coalition based on disability, NCDR seeks to build unity around pressing issues of common concern. In this spirit, NCDR will be launching a drive to promote a National Agenda for Disability Rights – a declaration of values and goals to advance equity and opportunity for people with disabilities. This document, which is being vetted at the national, state and local levels, seeks to build unity and broadly focuses on civil rights, housing, government services, transportation, education, healthcare, assistive technology and more. We will need your help to get national, state and local organizations to sign-on in support of the vetted Agenda. At this early stage, it should not be assumed that each organization associated with our Board of Directors, National Advisory Committee, or State Coalition Steering Committee necessarily supports this document. This document has just been posted for comments at:


Community Organizing: NCDR seeks to place a vetted National Agenda for Disability Rights at the center of an intensive community organizing project to build coalition within the disability community at the national, state and local levels. NCDR has been in the process of reaching out to leading community organization educators with the help of the Association for Community Organization & Social Administration. ACOSA is a membership organization for community organizers, activists, nonprofit administrators, community builders, policy practitioners, students and educators. Wikipedia explains that, while “organizing describes any activity involving people interacting with one another in a formal manner, much community organizing is in the pursuit of a common agenda. Community organizers create social movements by building a base of concerned people, mobilizing these community members to act, and developing leadership from and relationships among the people involved.”


NCDR Issue Areas: NCDR has identified key areas of focus for our educational and advocacy efforts. These areas correspond with leadership committees to be comprised of leaders in respective areas as well as associated online content areas of the new website and Action Center. Contact us if you are interested in serving on one of these committees and/or writing for a website topic area. These areas are:

  1. Civil Rights & Discrimination
  2. Poverty & Social Justice
  3. Healthcare & Public Policy
  4. Community Organizing & Coalition-Building
  5. Media & Public Outreach
  6. Disability Rights History    

New Website and Action Center: NCDR has been putting extensive work into rebuilding our online community news and action center that will reside at and Launching prior to the anniversary of the ADA on July 26th, the new website will:

  • Highlight news and coalition activities in our key areas of focus
  • Provide breaking news and action alerts impacting the disability community
  • Incorporate online advocacy tools from Democracy In Action
  • Provide state pages and action tools to build the capacity of state cross-disability coalition
  • Highlight community leaders, academics and writers by way of opinion columns and articles
  • Promote “town hall” forums to increase community influence on national organizations and public policy   

NCDR looks forward to working with you build a united disability community to create a more equitable and just Nation. As always, let us know what you think.


After years of being weakened in the courts, Congress is coming to the rescue of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the bipartisan civil rights protections signed into law in 1990. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced the ADA Restoration Act of 2007 on July 26, the seventeenth anniversary of the ADA. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) have introduced the bill in the Senate.

This vital legislation will restate and clarify the intent of Congress in order to keep the promise of the ADA. Please take action now to encourage members of Congress to sign-on and pass this legislation which was drafted with the support of a broad coalition of disability organizations.  

Contact Congress
Click the link above to tell your representatives in Congress to support the ADA Restoration Act.

Sign the Petition
Click the link above to show your support for passage of the ADA Restoration Act. We will distribute the petitions to Congress and the media

Tell Your Story
Click the link above to tell your story about disability discrimination, how the ADA has helped you or how the promise of the ADA is still unfulfilled. We will share these testimonials with Congress and the media.

Get On the Bus
Click the link above to follow the Road To Freedom: Keeping the Promise of the ADA, our year-long, cross-country bus tour promoting the restoration of the ADA.   Freedom bus Check out the tour schedule, read the blog and view photos of our journey so far covering more than 14,000 miles, 30 states and 45 bus stop events.

Seventeen years ago, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with overwhelming bipartisan support. However, in recent years, a number of Supreme Court decisions have significantly reduced the protections available to people with disabilities in employment settings.

Courts are quick to side with businesses and employers, deciding against people with disabilities who challenge employment discrimination 97% of the time, often before the person has even had a chance to show that the employer treated them unfairly.

Indeed, courts have created an absurd Catch-22 by allowing employers to say a person is “too disabled” to do the job but not “disabled enough” to be protected by the ADA. People with conditions like epilepsy, diabetes, HIV, cancer, hearing loss, and mental illness that manage their disabilities with medication, prosthetics, hearing aids, etc. — or “mitigating measures” — are viewed as “too functional” to have a disability and are denied the ADA’s protection from employment discrimination.

People denied a job or fired because an employer mistakenly believes they cannot perform the job or because the employer does not want people with disabilities in the workplace are also denied the ADA’s protection from employment discrimination.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation is needed to reverse court decisions that have left most workers with disabilities without any on-the-job protections against discrimination, witnesses told the House Education and Labor Committee today.

The Americans with Disabilities Restoration Act (H.R. 3195), introduced by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), would restore the original intent of the historic Americans with Disabilities Act. The bipartisan bill would reverse recent court decisions that have made it easier for employers to discriminate against workers with disabilities. Read the rest of this entry »

Nashville Tennessean 

By Michael Cass

(Nashville, Tennessee) The cross-country Road to Freedom tour stopped in Nashville on Wednesday to pitch the importance of preserving the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Mayor Karl Dean and Councilman Darren Jernigan were there to talk about the cause. Advocates for the ADA, which Congress passed in 1990, say its power to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities has been steadily eroded by federal court decisions favoring employers over workers. The advocates are now lobbying Congress to pass an “ADA Restoration Act.”

“We must restore the language, we must restore the intent of the ADA,” said Jernigan, who became the first Metro councilman with a physical disability when he was elected to represent District 11 in Old Hickory this year. “We will not go quietly into the night.”

Read the rest of this entry »

 Charleston Gazette

By Eric Eyre
Staff writer

A national bus tour exhibit about the disability rights movement will make a stop this weekend at the South Charleston Wal-Mart on Corridor G.
West Virginia leads the nation with more than 27 percent of residents reporting they are disabled, according to national health surveys. Nearly 10 percent of West Virginians have health problems that require special equipment — also the highest rate in the United States.

The bus tour includes a multimedia display about the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act and photographs from Tom Olin, whose work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

“The Act is extremely important here in West Virginia because we have so many people with disabilities,” said David Stewart, coordinator for the West Virginia ADA Coalition. The “Road to Freedom Tour” has stopped at 65 events in 44 states during the past year, a journey that has stretched more than 20,000 miles. The exhibits explain the struggle for disability rights and promote the expansion of educational and economic opportunities for children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities.

Read the rest of this entry »

Indiana Post-Tribune,adabus.article

MERRILLVILLE — Life since the Americans with Disabilities Act has improved in a way that a road full of potholes spot-filled with asphalt is improved: It’s better but still fundamentally flawed.

People with disabilities have better access to buildings and have their own washrooms and parking spaces, said Jim Ward, president of ADA Watch and the National Coalition of Disability Rights, during his stop at Everybody Counts, Inc. on Wednesday.

But that’s only one small fraction of a larger issue that continues to leave much of the population sliding through the cracks, he said. Ward and his family have been touring the country for the past year in their “Road to Freedom” bus. They have stopped at 65 events in 44 states, spreading both the victories and obstacles of the ADA through a display shot by photographer Tom Olin.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Republican Newspaper

By Diane Lederman

AMHERST – About 50 people, some in wheelchairs, some on crutches or with service dogs, gathered yesterday to welcome the Road to Freedom bus to Stavros Center for Independent Living.

James Ward, president of the National Coalition for Disability Rights, has been traveling around the country in his red, white and blue bus since November with his wife and two children to teach people about the Americans with Disabilities Act and to listen to stories about how the act is failing to protect those who need it.

His stop here was one of about 60 across the country, a journey that has stretched more than 20,000 miles, he said.

Ward, who said he suffers from an invisible disability – mental illness – was also collecting signatures that he will bring to Congress urging the approval of the ADA Restoration Act that will address some of the problems with the act that was approved 17 years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

 WAMC Public Radio

Campaign To Toughen ADA Visits Amherst, Massachusetts

AMHERST, MA (2007-10-17) A national campaign to strengthen the Americans with Disabilities Act , called The Road to Freedom, rolled into the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts this afternoon…WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports…..

Listen to this radio news report >>

 New Haven Register

By Mark Zaretsky  

NEW HAVEN — If you’re someone without a disability, you may think that when Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, it took care of problems people with disabilities may have with accessibility and opportunity. But a traveling “freedom tour” landed on the New Haven Green Sunday, and dozens of Connecticut disabilities rights advocates spent the day spreading the message that 17 years later, the ADA is threatened. And particularly threatened by some court decisions by judges who opted to narrowly interpret the law. The advocates say the law is in need of protection, reinforcement and, in some cases, repair.

The event on the Green celebrated “disability culture.” The Road to Freedom Bus Tour, a project of ADA Watch and the National Coalition for Disability Rights, is touring all 50 states to urge Congress to keep the promise of the ADA and build support for passage of the proposed ADA Restoration Act in order to do that.

“We feel that the Americans with Disabilities Act over the years has been weakened by a lot of the court cases,” said Heather Northrup, coordinator of CT-KASA, which is an acronym for “Connecticut Kids As Self Advocates.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The fifty—state Road to Freedom Tour visited Connecticut last week, and due to the outstanding effort of several dozen individuals and organizations it was an unqualified success. The three-stop visit was coordinated by the Disability Advocacy Collaborative.

The Tour concluded with a rousing welcome at the State Capitol the afternoon of Monday, October 15 attended by 70 advocates and disability rights supporters. The highlight of the Capitol stop was a commitment by First District Congressman John Larson to support the ADA Restoration Act. Larson had been the only member of the State’s Congressional delegation that had not signed on as a Co-Sponsor of the Act.

Read the rest of this entry »

Troy Record Newspaper

By Kathryn Caggianelli

TROY – A 50-foot red, white and blue bus carrying a group of advocates in favor of redefining the meaning of the word “disabled” rolled into downtown Wednesday afternoon for a press conference in front of the Atrium on Third Street.

One side of the bus touted the slogan “keeping the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act” (ADA). “The Road to Freedom Bus Tour” was emblazoned on the other side.

“We’re calling on Americans to pass the ADA Restoration Act of 2007,” said Jim Ward, founder and president of ADA Watch and the National Coalition for Disability Rights (NCDR) based in Washington, D.C.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

By Greg Livadas

(Rochester, New York) – A mobile display chronicling the struggles of disabled people and the Americans with Disabilities Act rolled into Rochester today.

Visitors to the Center for Disability Rights on State Street were also encouraged to sign a petition to have Congress pass the ADA Restoration Act, which would include more people for ADA coverage.

“The ADA is a living, breathing grass roots movement,” said Jim Ward with the Road to Freedom bus tour. “This tour isn’t about disability. It’s about humanity and how the world’s wealthiest nation doesn’t deal with its own humanity.”

CDR’s Executive Director Bruce Darling said critical issues for equal access are education, transportation, housing and employment. Unemployment among the disabled is 70 percent, he said.

“We have a lot of work to do,” he said. “Even now, the right to vote privately and independently are things we struggle for.”

Local dignitaries attended a press conference at the center.

For more information, visit:

Albany Times Union

By David Filkins, Times Union (Albany, New York)

TROY — A yearlong bus tour promoting rights for people with disabilities will make a stop in Troy on Wednesday.

The event, Road to Freedom, will feature a multimedia display and history exhibit highlighting the disability rights struggle and the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A photo exhibit and a discussion by National Coalition for Disability Rights President Jim Ward will be included in the free event, which runs from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Atrium, 41 Third St.

A dinner during the event will benefit The Sanctuary for Independent Media, a community media resource center in Troy. The dinner costs $20 per plate; $40 per family. A silent auction featuring artwork from local artists will take place during the dinner.

For more information contact The Center for Independent Living of the Hudson Valley at 274-0701 or http://; or The Sanctuary for Independent Media at 272-2390 or http://www.the

 Mankota Free Press

By Pat Christman

Ceremony at St. Peter Regional Treatment Center honors those whose graves were marked by just numbers

(Mankato, Minnesota) Remembering With Dignity, together with the Americans with Disabilities Act Road to Freedom tour, held a ceremony Saturday to honor the placement of hundreds of new grave markers in the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center’s cemetery.

Cemeteries have historically been the places people go to remember family members and friends who have died. Remember who they were and what they did while they were alive. In some cemeteries, such as the one on the grounds of the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center, it can be a place to forget.

More than 12,500 graves in institution cemeteries in Minnesota are marked with only a number, if at all, according to Remembering With Dignity, a coalition of disability rights and advocacy organizations founded in 1994 to identify those people buried beneath a number and record their histories. Remembering With Dignity, together with the Americans with Disabilities Act Road to Freedom tour, held a ceremony Saturday to honor the placement of hundreds of new grave markers in the treatment center’s cemetery. Read the rest of this entry »

Michigan Mining Journal


MARQUETTE – A national bus tour promoting the Americans with Disabilities Act got plenty of support Tuesday when it stopped at the Marquette Commons.

“Is the ADA about charity?” asked Jim Ward, president of ADA Watch and the National Coalition of Disability Rights.

“No!” shouted back a crowd of more than 100 Upper Peninsula residents.

“Is the ADA about pity?” “No!”

“Is the ADA about sympathy?” “No!”

Ward has been traveling the country with his family, road crew and camera since November on the Road to Freedom bus, a disability rights tour designed to celebrate the 1990 ADA and raise awareness of issues that still need to be addressed.

His message is simple: this is a civil rights act, not charity or a bureaucratic mandate. “People aren’t familiar with the idea of people with disabilities active in civil rights and participating in acts of civil disobedience,” Ward said. “Hopefully, people can come to understand the people’s movement that got the ADA passed and that despite the hard work that went into it, it’s being rolled back in the courts.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Senator Tom Harkin Calls for Restoration of Americans with Disabilities Act
on the ‘Road to Freedom’ National Bus Tour

Advocates Living On the Road to Advance Disability Civil Rights

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA)  joined a family of four, a prominent documentary photographer, and other advocates who are living and traveling aboard a bus during a yearlong, cross-country tour promoting civil rights protections for children and adults with physical, mental, cognitive, sensory and developmental disabilities. The “Road To Freedom” bus and traveling exhibit left Washington, DC last on November 15 with Yoshiko Dart, widow of the “Father of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),” Justin Dart, Jr. aboard.

The bus tour, produced by ADA Watch and the National Coalition for Disability Rights (NCDR), has traveled more than 15,000 miles with 45 bus stop events in 32 states, gathering petition signatures, registering citizens to vote and attracting significant local media attention. It will return to Washington, DC this coming November. Read the rest of this entry »

By Frank Strong, Jr.
Associate Director of the Central Iowa Center for Independent Living

After months of planning of the event to celebrate the arrival of the ADA “Road to Freedom” bus tour arrived in Des Moines, Iowa. The “Road to Freedom “ buses had been traveling around the states for the last eight months, both buses arrived in Des Moines, Iowa on Wednesday August 8, 2007.

On the morning of Wednesday, August 8, we spoke with Jim Ward over the telephone about their accommodations and their plans for the next two days while they spent time in central Iowa. The Road To Freedom tour actually consists of a convoy of vehicles including two buses, a Jeep, a travel trailer and a storage trailer. The Freedom Riders include Jim Ward, president of ADA Watch/National Coalition for Disability Rights, documentary photographer Tom Olin, former AOL director of accessibility Debbie Fletter Ward, video camera operator Amanda Meisner and the Ward’s children, Zach, age 3 and Jake, age 2. Tom captures photos of the events while the program includes dignitaries, policymakers, disability rights leaders, as well as Jim’s overview of the bus tour and call to pass the ADA Restoration Act of 2007. Read the rest of this entry »

By Guest Blogger: Mike Hoenig, Member of the Cedar Rapids, Iowa Road to Freedom Tour Planning Committee

(Cedar Rapids, Iowa) August 10, 2007, will go down as a day to remember for disability advocates attending the Road to Freedom Tour/ADA Celebration in Cedar Rapids. Things got underway at 2 PM with tours of Veterans Memorial Stadium and a “meet and greet” with the Cedar Rapids Kernels minor league baseball team. While others were touring the stadium and meeting the players, I took the opportunity to visit the Road to Freedom’s Disability History Exhibit. What a profound experience! I was fascinated to learn that the first recorded reference to disability occurred around 3500 B.C. I was angry all over again when reminded of the segregation, confinement and mistreatment which people with disabilities faced for centuries. And I was inspired all over again by Justin Dart, whose spirit is as alive today as it was when he physically lived among us. Read the rest of this entry »

Click here to go to the photo gallery for this bus stop.

“We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

— From the opinion written by Chief Justice Earl Warren in the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education

(Topeka, Kansas) One of Tom Olin‘s photographs in the mural on the side of the Freedom Bus captures a protester with a disability holding a sign declaring, “Separate is Never Equal.” On August 1, as we pulled in front of the historic Monroe Elementary School building, Dennis Vasquez, Superintendent of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, enthusiastically told us that he could think of no better place for the bus to stop. This incredible event was sponsored by the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center (TILRC) and, on very short notice, local advocates and supporters welcomed us and highlighted the strong bonds between the African American Civil Rights and Disability Civil Rights movements. Read the rest of this entry »

Click here to go to the photo gallery for this bus stop. 

(St. Louis, Missouri) Advocates and supporters packed into the Missouri History Museum on July 28 to welcome the Road To Freedom bus and crew and to hear local and national leaders call for restoration of the ADA. The event was produced by Paraquad, a private, not-for-profit community-based Center for Independent Living in partnership with the museum and with community partners including Cohen Hilberry Architects, Impact, Inc., Joni & Friends Gateway, and Linc, Inc. Road To Freedom Bus Stop at Missouri History MuseumThe speakers panel for the afternoon included Moderator Jim Tuscher, Paraquad; Jim Ward, ADA Watch and The Road to Freedom; David Newburger, Newburger and Vossmeyer, LLC and the Starkloff Disability Institute; Kyle Tate, Paraquad; Gina Hillberry, Cohen Hillberry Architects; and Max Starkloff, Starkloff Disability Institute. Read the rest of this entry »

(Washington, DC) We left the Freedom Bus behind in Chicago and jumped on a flight to be in Washington for the introduction of the ADA Restoration Act of 2007 on its 17th anniversary. ADA Watch has worked in coalition with the disability community in drafting and advocating for the introduction of this bill for more than 7 years now. It was an exciting day to be on the West steps of the U.S. Capitol overlooking the Mall as Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced the introduction of the ADA Restoration Act while surrounded by other members of Congress, as well as advocates including ADA Watch’s Jim Ward, ADA Watch Co-Chair and Executive Director of NDRN, Curt Decker, Marcie Roth, Becky Ogle, Andy Imparato, Elizabeth Goldberg and others. Read the rest of this entry »

(Chicago, Illinois) On July 25th, the day before the 17th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Freedom Bus and crew drove into the cavernous Festival Hall on Chicago’s Navy Pier for Access Chicago, the Midwest’s largest free exhibition of products and services for people with disabilities. It was also at this event where the city of Chicago was honored as the runner up in the National Organization on Disability’s (NOD) Accessible America Competition. Karen Tamley, the Commissioner of Mayor Daley’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD), accepted the $10,000 Accessible America prize from our good friend and colleague, NOD President Michael Deland.  Access Chicago is produced by the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.  Under the direction of Commissioner Tamley, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) seeks to meet the diverse needs of the more than 600,000 people with disabilities who live and work in Chicago.  The Road to Freedom pulled alongside several accessibible city buses which were part of a program that included adaptive sporting events, music and information booths representing hundreds of products and services.

(Chicago, Illinois) The Freedom Bus crew had the pleasure of joining a large group of advocates, board members and supporters at Access Living in Chicago. President and CEO, Marca Bristo welcomed speakers and participants at the new Access Living building, a beautiful universally designed headquarters that just opened. The featured speaker for the event was Gerard Quinn of Ireland, an international disability rights lawyer, who addressed how independent living is reflected in the Convention and the politics behind it. Marca and Gerard shared their personal stories about the behind-the-scenes sweat and tears that went into this work. Read the rest of this entry »

(Chicago, Illinois) The Freedom Bus traveled to Chicago on July 21, where we joined thousands in celebrating our disabilities at the annual Disability Pride Parade. With Tom Olin at the wheel, the bus joined floats, accessible vehicles and advocates who followed the 1/2 mile parade route to Daley Plaza for the post-parade celebration. Jim and Deb and the boys walked along the bus greeting participants and talking up ADA Restoration.

With the bus parked near the many organizational booths on the Plaza, Jim Ward took to the stage to call on participants to view the exhibit and sign the petition. His remarks were part of a long program of advocates and entertainers promoting disability pride. Read the rest of this entry »