(Milwaukee, Wisconsin) With more than 200 attendees braving the weather, Milwaukee’s Road to Freedom event was coordinated by IndependenceFirst, one of the tour’s biggest sponsors. Being the “City of Festivals,” IndependenceFirst staff wanted to plan an event with music and entertainment that was inclusive of performers with disabilities. Alie Kriofske Mainella, Youth Leadership Specialist and Carol Voss, Public Relations and Marketing Manager headed up the planning committee with the help of Executive Director Lee Schulz, Associate Director Karen Avery and staff members Diana Sullivan and Patti Stengel. Read the rest of this entry »

From guest blogger Fil Clissa:
(Madison, Wisconsin) On Saturday July 14, Survival Coalition members and disability advocates greeted the 37 foot Freedom Bus and crew in front of the Public Library in Madison, WI. This event coincided with the Art Fair on the Square, one Madison’s signature events. The event attracted thousands of people who enjoyed the art, food and live music. We were joined by members of the local disability community — and some ADAPT members who traveled hours all the way from Superior — and together we were able to catch the attention of hundreds of people walking to and from the Art Fair.We passed out over 400 promotional Disability Rights “Fans” and take action cards and gathered petition signatures to support the ADA Restoration Act. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

(Milwaukee, Wisconsin) The Freedom Bus rolled into Milwaukee and the first stop on our schedule was with our number one sponsor, IndependenceFirst.  Executive Director, Lee Schultz and his wife, Julie, treated the road crew — including the kids! — to lunch downtown. We then went on a tour of the center and met the staff of IndependenceFirst. The center is one of the largest independent living centers in the country with more than 90 in-house staff members and 1200 community care providers.  Read the rest of this entry »

Click here to view the photo gallery of this bus stop event.

(Sioux Falls, South Dakota) We pulled into the Empire Mall in Sioux Falls and were greeted by the bus stop coordinator, Ryan Green of the state Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) as he was finishing up a TV interview about the event. We were soon joined by Shelly Pfaff of the South Dakota Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities, whose member organizations helped organize and set up resource centers at the event. We were very proud to also be welcomed to Sioux Falls by Mayor Dave Munson. Read the rest of this entry »

(Keystone, South Dakota) The Road To Freedom tour crew was very proud to celebrate Independence Day on July 4th at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, South Dakota. It took some work to position the bus just right for Tom Olin‘s photograph of the bus in front of the huge carved images of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln (including getting stuck on a tiny deadend dirt road in the woods and having to back out with the trailer on the back!). We hiked on a fully accessible trail to the base of the monument and could not help put think of Justin Dart quoting these leaders — especially Lincoln and Jefferson — in relation to the disability rights struggle.  Read the rest of this entry »

(Missoula, Montana)   Aaah Missoula…well, we pulled into Missoula under the cover of darkness and a week early definitely in need of a little R&R (rest and relaxation) and Missoula was just the place to do it.  Our first morning here we were greeted by ADAPT member Marsha Katz with a variety of freshly made local pastries.  By afternoon the word had spread and staff members from Summit Independent Living Center (ILC) stopped by our campsite with a basket of Made in Montana goodies.  The next week was packed with touring Glacier National Park and attending Missoula festivals.  After our fun was had and the week slipped away it was time to get back to work.  Read the rest of this entry »

Road to Freedom Bus Tour

By Alden Downing
Video Watch the video

HELENA – Keeping the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act. That’s what Jim Ward and Tom Olin hope to accomplish through their nationwide Road to Freedom Bus Tour.

The bus rolled into Helena Wednesday afternoon, aiming to educate Montanans of the obstacles still facing Americans with physical and psychological disabilities.  Read the rest of this entry »

(Missoula, Montana) The Missoula City Council and Mayor John Engen welcomed the Road To Freedom at the City Council meeting and proclaimed June 28 Road To Freedom Day. Summit Independent Living advocacy specialist Travis Hoffman introduced Jim Ward and Tom Olin and invited the public to this Thursday’s Downtown Tonight and the Road to Freedom Tour, which will focus on the American Disabilities Act. The event runs from 3 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Caras Park. Joining Jim and Tom in the Council Chambers were Jude Munson from Summit as well as Marsha Katz and Bob Liston of Montana ADAPT.

(Cheyenne, Wyoming) — The Road to Freedom bus, promoting awareness of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), pulled into Cheyenne Friday, June 15, from 1-3 p.m. at the Hampton Inn, 1781 Fleischli Parkway.

It is one of 80 stops nationwide to explain the ADA and the history of the disability rights movement, explained Kendall Corbett, coordinator of consumer activities with the Wyoming Institute for Disabilities (WIND) in the University of Wyoming College of Health Sciences.

“WIND is working with ‘Road to Freedom’ organizers to increase awareness of the provisions of the ADA, and of the ADA Restoration Act,” Corbett says. “The goal is to mobilize Americans to keep the promise of the ADA — freedom, inclusion, and opportunity for children and adults with physical, mental, cognitive and developmental disabilities.”

The local TV network covered the bus and exhibit with interviews by Corbett and ADA Watch’s founder and president, Jim Ward.

The Road to Freedom exhibition features Tom Olin’s historical photographs of the struggle for disability rights. Olin’s work has been featured at the Smithsonian Institution. The exhibition also includes a narrative of the grassroots history of the ADA as written by Arlene Mayerson of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.

Tour Tells Story of Disabilities Rights Movement, Seeks Restoration of ADA

By Chris Casey, Greeley Tribune Newspaper

June 11, 2007

(Greeley, Colorado) Vicki Baker, who was left a paraplegic after a car crash five years ago, couldn’t imagine life without the services that were spurred by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The 54-year-old Greeley woman frequently rides city buses outfitted with wheelchair lifts to get around town. The buses help Baker, who has a college degree in sociology and social work, get to appointments as she looks for a job.

“It’s very helpful. It gives us a chance to voice our opinion in what we need,” Baker said of the law. “Without the ADA, we’d be sitting in nursing homes and institutions — all of us — when we do have things to offer the community.”

Baker joined about 60 other people, many with disabilities, at a stop of the Road to Freedom tour in Greeley on Monday morning. The cross-country bus tour was organized by Maryland resident Jim Ward and his family to bring awareness to the ADA and the barriers and discrimination still faced by people with disabilities.  Read the rest of this entry »

(Denver, Colorado) On June 4th Mayor John Hickenlooper welcomed the Road to Freedom bus and crew to Denver.  The setting was in front of the Denver City and County building and the back drop was the State Capital.  There were around 80 people who attended to see the tour and to listen to local speakers talk about the ADA, the disability community, the accomplishments made in Colorado, and efforts to improve the independence for people with disabilities.  Keynote speakers joining the Mayor at the podium included Julie Reiskin, executive director of the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition, Mark Simon, member of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Healthcare, and Joan Henneberry from Health Care Policy and Finance for the state of Colorado.  

Jim Ward and Tom Olin represented the tour.  Jim spoke about how that States are trying to ignore or erode accomplishments made by the Americans with Disabilities Act.   Sponsors of the stop were Colorado Cross Disability Coalition, Epilepsy Foundation and Very Special Arts (VSA).

(Eugene, Oregon) The Road To Freedom bus rolled into Oregon with a warm and upbeat welcome from the Eugene- and Springfield-area disability community and local officials. Casey Martin — the professional golfer who was granted by the Supreme Court the right, under the ADA, to use a golf cart to accommodate his disability — was just one of the highlights of this upbeat bus stop which included music, juggling, comedy skits and more.

Dignitaries welcoming the bus included Eugene’s Mayor Kitty Piercy and Springfield’s Mayor Sid Leiken, along with County Commissioner Pete Sorenson. The location, appropriately enough, was outdoors at the Lane Transit District bus depot and the event attracted commuters from throughout the region along with our disability and civil rights colleagues and invited guests. The historical exhibit — along with a wonderful feast and refreshments — was inside the Lane Independent Living Alliance (LILA) building.

LILA’s executive director, Jon West — who closed the show joined by LILA staff with a musical performance about “rolling down the highway” — was the Master of Ceremonies for the day. Speakers included LILA Board President, Eugene Organ (Yes, his real name!); Hugh Massengill, Chair of the Eugene Human Rights Committee on Accessibility; Gary Gaydos, LTD Board President; Terry Parker, LTD Accessible Services Manager; Terry Coplin, CEO of Lane Individual Practice Association; Molly Elliot, Hilyard Community Center Adaptive Recreation and Inclusion Coordinator; and our good friends from MindFreedom International, David Oaks and Martin Rafferty. ADA Watch’s Jim Ward presented the mission of the Road To Freedom campaign and thanked everyone involved for putting together such a wonderful day!

In between the powerful words of support from our speakers, the large audience was treated to performances by a fabulous and high-powered  drumming group, Samba Ja, Eugene’s own mobile percussion ensemble; a comedy juggling performance (with fire!); and a comedy skit by Bjo Ashwill and Gweneth Van Frank who imagined a world controlled by people with disabilities and their response to the passage of a new law that mandated accommodations for “able-bodied” citizens. Just think, they declared, of the burdens on business created by mandatory stairs and even chairs for “AB” workers who have to sit once and awhile!

Media Notes: The Road To Freedom bus crew was up early on the morning of this event as the ABC television affiliate, WKEZI, interviewed Jim Ward and Tom Olin during three segments of their 5 – 7 am news program. Two network affiliate stations also covered the event itself, resulting in significant coverage during the morning and evening news. On the radio, Jim Ward was a guest during the morning show on Progressive Talk Radio WKOPT. Print coverage included an Op-Ed written by LILA board president, Eugene Organ, which ran in the Register-Guard under the headline: “Let’s Take the Next Step in Accommodating Disabilities.”

(Honolulu, Hawaii) The Road To Freedom bus tour — minus the bus! — was welcomed by the Hawaii disability community in Honolulu. ADA Watch’s Jim Ward, carting the Road To Freedom exhibit, left the bus — and fellow crew members — and flew in for Road To Freedom stops in Honolulu and Maui. He received a warm “Aloha” and traditional lei greeting at the airport by Madeline Harcourt and Pina Lemusu of the Hawaii Centers for Independent Living.

Beautiful weather and a wonderful array of food and beverages greeted us for the event in the courtyard of the historic YWCA of Hawaii, where the exhibit was presented and a video screen displayed Tom Olin‘s historic images of the ADA struggle.

Participants included consumers, advocates, and representatives of a number of disability organizations, as well as staff members from the offices of various state representatives. Speakers included Pat Lockwood, Executive Director of the Hawaii Centers for Independent Living; Steve Brown, Ph.D., Assistant Professor Center on Disability Studies at the University of Hawaii; Joe Cordova, Administrator Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Department of Human Services; and Cheryl Nelson, Executive Director of the Hawaii Statewide Independent Living Council.

Jim Ward said a big “Mahala” for all the work that was done to pull off this event — and an apology for not being able to arrange the suggested “military transport” to bring the bus over from the mainland! He outlined the purpose of the tour: increasing public awareness of the history of the people’s movement leading to passage of the ADA; the backlash in the courts against the ADA; and how we can fix it with the proposed ADA Restoration Act.

Members of the audience then came to the podium to provide moving testimonials of their own experience living with disabilities and the work that remains to be done in order to fulfill the promise of the ADA. These testimonials were filmed on high definition video and will be part of a documentary that is be produced in partnership with filmmaker, John Ryan. John’s previous film, Right To Risk, is now airing on PBS.

Following this event, all involved left the YWCA and marched several blocks to the State Capitol behind a large banner with the Road To Freedom message of “Keeping the Promise of the ADA.” We visited a number of state representatives, House and Senate staffers, as well as the Governor and Lt. Governor’s offices.

Disability Rights Bus Travels Across Nation

By Cat Rooney and Chiaki Gonda

Epoch Times Kansas City Staff

Feb 12, 2007

HOME FREE: “The Road to Freedom” bus will travel to 80 cities in its year-long tour to raise awareness of ADA.

Advocates for Americans with disabilities plan to visit 80 cities this year. “The Road to Freedom” bus tour, which has already traveled an estimated 3,500 miles to 16 cities, is promoting awareness of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Jim Ward, ADA Watch and National Coalition of Disability Rights President, is leading the tour with his wife, Debbie, their two children, and photographer Tom Olin. The tour will end in Washington, D.C. on November 15.

“Everyone in the disability movement, young to old, likes to know the history,” said Olin, a photographic historian whose pictures will be persevered at the Smithsonian Institution. “They like to figure out where we come from and where we are going. Most people have a family member that is disabled and can actually relate to all this.”

Olin’s photographs are shown on the exterior of “The Road to Freedom” bus, on display panels for public viewing.

His pictures seek to capture the essence and struggles of the disabilities movement. They include a young man using a cane in a protest march with a sign, “Separate is not Equal” and a woman in an electric wheelchair at a rally with a poster stating, “Break the Chains of Discrimination.”

Marcie Goldstein, who uses a motorized wheelchair, saw “The Road to Freedom” display in New Orleans. “It makes me think we are still advocating for the same things,” said Goldstein. “We’ve made progress, but not enough.” For Goldstein, even with an advanced degree, she still has difficulties with career advancement. She thinks it is due to attitudes of employers about hiring persons with disabilities.

This attitude may be what Olin observed while taking pictures at events side by side with local press. “The difference [in the same picture taken by two photographers] is so obvious,” said Olin, “Mine come from knowing a person is powerful.” Olin thinks the other photographers were only seeing the disability or the wheelchair, and not the person. “I try to put power back into the person.”

The bus tour was inspired by Justin and Yoshiko Dart’s historical trips across America fighting for the passage of ADA. Justin’s wife talks about her late husband’s vision for equality for persons with disabilities. Justin, who used a wheelchair, and his wife traveled to all 50 states by car three separate times in the 1980’s. They did so to get local input into the drafting of the ADA, and to gather support to get it passed.

“We collected 5,000 discrimination diaries from all over the county,” said Yoshiko. “We took them in boxes to Congress and Justin pulled out the most striking discrimination stories to share.” Stories were shared such as young Lisa Carl’s, who was denied entry into her local movie theatre because of her wheelchair.

The civil rights movement for persons with disabilities looks much like the 1960’s civil rights movement for minorities. People with disabilities have held sit-ins at federal buildings, blocked inaccessible buses from traveling, marched in the streets to protest injustice, and sought redress in the courts and protection through legislation.

“Drawing on people power, persons with disabilities then took the lead in every state by lobbing their legislators for the passage of ADA,” said Yoshiko Dart. Every congressional building had a person in a wheelchair or walking with a cane or service dog to talk to their representatives in the summer of 1990. With this type of evidence, personal presence, and belief, the ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990. The Darts were amazed that the Act was passed in just two years after their last road trip, versus the 10 they thought it would take.

Yoshiko has hope for the future due to the young with disabilities. She finds the youth of today as confident, viewing inaccessible obstacles as inconveniences, and wanting to move on and fit into mainstream America, in different occupational fields. “Tremendous progress has been made since ADA,” said Yoshiko. “But, there is a lot of work still.”

The ADA aims to help people with disabilities to return to living within their community, not within institutions. It also prohibits employment discrimination based on disability, and requires accessible public transportation and accommodation, to allow for participation in daily activities. This translates to such things as curb cuts and ramps, so wheelchair users can to get into classrooms for an education, stores to buy groceries and clothes, and to seek housing and be employed. According to the 2000 Census, 45 million Americans are estimated to either be disabled due to functional limitations that interfere with walking, lifting, healing or learning—such as arthritis and heart disease—or have a physical, sensory, or mental condition.

(Jackson, Mississippi, Feb. 1-5) The cold and wet weather was quickly forgotten when the Road To Freedom bus rolled into Jackson, Mississippi. A group of dedicated ADA supporters — many from Living Independently for Everyone (the local Independent Living Center) — waited more than an hour to greet us with colorful signs, applause and cheers! It took us totally by surprise as we drove around looking for the proper entrance to park — at first we wondered what cause they were protesting for or against at the Capitol. Many thanks to Christy Dunaway, executive director of LIFE, and to all who turned out. Read the rest of this entry »

Today the Road To Freedom bus and exhibit were warmly welcomed at the Center for Independent Living of Orlando. Many thanks to Liz Howe, executive director, and Rogue Gallart, Director of Advocacy, and all who turned out to greet us and see the exhibit.

The Road To Freedom  bus pulled into Orlando from Tallahassee in the midst of some unusually cold weather in Florida. First stop is the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) 2007 Conference — “Showcasing Excellence in Assistive Technology.”  The bus was parked in front of the conference center of the Caribe Royale and our exhibit was prominently featured in the main hall. With hundreds of participants, exhibitors and corporate representatives, the conference is an ideal event to introduce — or strengthen — understanding of the history of disability civil rights and the ADA among technology professionals.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Freedom Bus rolled into Florida on January 20th only to discover that our Tallahassee events were cancelled. It seems the state office of Vocational Rehabilitation, the primary organizer, pulled out at the last minute because they felt that the Road To Freedom Tour was too focused on advocacy???!!! Not sure what exactly the problem was… Supporting a strong ADA? Calling for compliance and fair enforcement of the ADA? Just to be clear: our efforts to promote and strengthen the ADA are nonpolitical and nonpartisan. Read the rest of this entry »

Many thanks to the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council for sponsoring us at their meeting in Baton Rougue, Louisiana. Members spent time viewing the exhibit and talking with photographer, Tom Olin. RTF staff presented an overview of the tour and ongoing efforts in DC addressing ADA restoration. We also met with Matthew Rovira, the executive director of the Louisiana Governor’s Office on Disability Affairs and Kathy Kliebert of the Louisiana Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities. Thanks also to Robert Wilson of the Statewide Independent Living Council. Read the rest of this entry »

The Road To Freedom was proud to be included at the Statewide Independent Living Council Congress “Building For Our Future” in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Many thanks to Charlotte Bowen, Brenda Curtiss, Mike Collins, Maris Burton, Steve Higgins, Paula Margeson and all the SILC Congress representatives. Special thanks to Betsy Valnes, executive director of the National Youth Leadership Network (NYLN) for working with us as we develop a strong Road To Freedom youth program. Read the rest of this entry »