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.

Governor M. Jodi Rell proclaimed the date “Road to Freedom Day” in Connecticut, and Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz not only welcomed the crowd but made available for testing the new voting technology that will be used in municipal elections on November 6. Entertainment at the Capitol event included disability—rights veteran Elaine Kolb, signers/singers from the American School for the Deaf, and Selina Welborn from Advocacy Unlimited.

At each stop, Road to Freedom organizer Jim Ward described the original tour Justin Dart made in the late 1980’s that generated the grass roots support so critical to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. The 2007 tour is being made to garner support for the ADA Restoration Act, needed to remedy the restricted definition of disability that has resulted from a series of U.S. Supreme Court decision over the last eight years. Included in each Tour stop were three exhibits, among which was Tom Olin’s photographic history of the disability rights movement, which has been on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.

CT—KASA (Kids As Self Advocates), the City of New Haven Department of Disability Services, and the UConn Center on Disabilities (the A.J. Pappanikou Center) collaborated on Sunday afternoon to produced a youth-focused event on the New Haven Green. The Collaborative thanks Heather Northrop and Jessica Dybdahl from KASA, Michelle Duprey and Kristen Barber from the City of New Haven, and David Martin from the Pappanikou Center for the extra-ordinary effort they made to pull together a multi-phased celebration. New Haven Mayor John DeStefano and State Representative Pat Dillon welcomed the attendees, followed by short presentations from a series of speakers and performances by three entertainers who happened to have disabilities (musician Ryan Silveira, storyteller Carol Glynn, and singer, Ellie Hazan). Inside City Hall, twenty five organizations and agencies set up tables dispensing information and sharing resources.

In Winsted, the Northwest Disability Advocacy Network, Independence Northwest, and the State Independent Living Council (SILC) collaborated on a Tour stop held at Northwestern Connecticut Community College. Bill Knight, Michael Valuckas, and Thom Condon are recognized for the skill with which they put together the Monday morning event. Torrington Mayor Ryan Bingham brought a welcome from his town, and representatives from the Town of Winsted, NWCCC, the Polio Outreach Network, and Independence Northwest also voiced their support for the ADA.

Special thanks go to the Commission on the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, which provided sign language interpreters at each stop; Larry Robinson, a VISTA Volunteer with the Disability Advocacy Collaborative for his work on both the New Haven and the Winsted event; Boundless Playgrounds for providing a photographer at the State Capitol event; Chris Gaynor from the Office of Protection and Advocacy for her support on many levels; the UConn Center on Disabilities for providing staff support; and Lyman’s Farms for their donation of cider and apples for the State Capitol stop.