The Road To Freedom bus crew had every intention to make the long journey to join the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) in Washington, DC for their annual conference — this year celebrating 25 years of leadership. Well, with the fact-paced schedule we have been keeping and the need to catch-up on work (including updating this blog!) we painfully decided to take a needed pit-stop here in Wisconsin. We did want to celebrate with everyone so we sent off a letter that was read at the conference by NCIL executive director, John Lancaster.

Here is what it said:

Dear NCIL Members, Founders, Board and Staff:

Happy Anniversary! On behalf of ADA Watch and our Board of Directors, I want to congratulate you for 25 years of leadership in advancing Independent Living and disability rights.

I write from the Road To Freedom Tour Bus currently stopped in Madison, WI. Along with Tom Olin, my wife Debbie Fletter Ward and our two boys, Zach and Jake, we send our best wishes from the bus and share with you the spirit of NCIL and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

We have been living on the road for more than eight months, traveled to 30 states and have joined with local disability communities at more than 45 bus stop events celebrating the ADA and bringing Justin Dart’s message of freedom, inclusion and opportunity to mainstream audiences, policymakers and the media.

The purpose of the Road To Freedom bus tour is threefold:

1) To make America aware — through Tom Olin’s photographic history of the disability rights movement and the testimonials of Americans with disabilities — of the grassroots initiative – the people’s movement – that led to passage of the ADA in 1990.

2) To remind America that the promise of the ADA has not been fully realized in regard to community living, poverty, unemployment, social justice and much more; and that — contrary to the intent of Congress — the definition of disability under the ADA continues to be narrowed in the courts.

3) To gather testimonials and petition signatures to call on Congress to pass the ADA Restoration Act, the proposed legislation which has been drafted and presented to Congress with the support of hundreds of disability organizations representing millions of Americans with disabilities.

The backbone of the Road To Freedom Tour has clearly been the Independent Living Centers across America. From major sponsorships from IndependenceFirst, Arizona Bridge to Independent Living,Topeka Independent Living Resource Center and many others — to the day-to-day advance work and planning of countless CILs — our efforts would not have been possible without your support. And with more than 40 scheduled events still ahead of us, we need your continued support to keep the Road To Freedom bus tour rolling and to keep the promise of the ADA.

We look forward to working with you and, again, congratulations on 25 years of leading on!

See you on the road,


Jim Ward, Founder and President
ADA Watch and the National Coalition for Disability Rights