Happy Birthday, ADA!

The ADA 26 Years Old

This guest post is submitted by LaKesha Whitman, associate director of The Center for Exceptional Families in Jonesboro, Arkansas. It originally appeared on the blog, Neuro-a-Musings, of neuropsychologist Dr. Kristin Addison-Brown: http://neaneuropsychology.weebly.com/blog-neuro-a-musings.

WheelchairThe Americans with Disabilities Act celebrates the 26th anniversary of its signing by George H. W. Bush, on July 26, 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that levels the playing field for people with disabilities in the areas of employment, access to programs and services of state and local government, access to healthcare facilities, education, retail establishments, and recreational venues open to the public at large, as well as access to and for communication and transportation.

Reasonable accommodations and removal of readily achievable barriers are basic rights, though many may see the ADA as a “special privileges” law, it is NOT a provision of privilege, but of human, legal and civil rights that Americans without disabilities have had, some longer than others. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not include people with disabilities. Discrimination was and still is a practice towards people with disabilities due to ignorance and stereotyping.

A notable leader who was instrumental in the passage of the ADA, is Justin Dart, Jr. Justin came from a wealthy family in Chicago. His mother was the daughter of Charles Walgreen, founder of the thriving drug store chain. His father owned Dart Industries, a conglomeration of businesses he later sold to Kraft Industries. Neither money nor status are exempt from disability.

At the age of 18, Justin, Jr. contracted polio and became a wheelchair user. He then graduated from the University of Houston but was denied a teaching certificate due to his disability. Despite that decision, he went on to become a successful entrepreneur who founded three Japanese Corporations. He left all that behind because of his resolve to end discrimination towards people with disabilities and fight for his and their rights. Justin Jr. is regarded as the Father of the ADA and became immortalized as such, and can be seen sitting next to President Bush for the signing of the ADA.

There were and are countless others who fought and continue to fight for the rights of people with disabilities to be able to exercise that inalienable right outlined in the Constitution; the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, our children will not learn of these valiant leaders in our American History books where they might have read this quote from Justin Dart, Jr as it relates to the ADA:

“…Civil rights are not a guarantee of the good life, but an equal opportunity and responsibility to participate in producing the good life for oneself and for all. Government alone cannot implement ADA; this is a responsibility of all Americans…”

Written by SeRonna Rodgers¹


Disability.bracesAs we celebrate the 26th birthday of the American Disability Act, we watch with pride how this has evolved for persons with disabilities.  Numerous groups and agencies now act as mentors, advocates and resources to offer assistance to those with disabilities.

The Center for Exceptional Families has a mission to work in collaboration with families and their local schools to promote an innovative approach to education services for individuals with disabilities.  To help improve educational opportunities for students with disabilities, including students transitioning beyond high school.

We support children with disabilities and their families, students transitioning beyond high school, the local school districts and other state and community based providers, and advocating for children and adults with disabilities, as outlines in federal laws IDEA, ADA, and Section 504.

You can learn more about the resources and opportunities the center provides at:


Or you can contact LaKesha Whitman at lakesha.whitman@tcfef.org

1. Source: SeRonna Rodgers, Director of Operations at Arkansas Disability Resource & Advocacy Center: www.ar-drac.org, D-RAC facebook page, or 870.246.8600