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Saturday, August 11, 2018

The ADA Is 28

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the civil rights of people with autism and other disabilities

The Autism Society recently observed the 28th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Autism Society published a statement celebrating the civil rights law, acknowledging the history and evolution of disability rights, and pledging to continue its mission to support people with autism and other disabilities and their families. This mission includes protecting the ADA and other civil rights laws that promote the vision of full inclusion of people with autism and other disabilities. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Community Living (ACL) also published a statement using the ADA anniversary to reaffirm its commitment to the “fundamental principle that older adults and people of all ages with disabilities should be able to live where they choose, with the people they choose and with the ability to participate fully in their communities
Two years ago, David A. Graham wrote at The Atlantic:
Disability politics used to be bipartisan. The Americans with Disabilities Act was primarily authored by Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat. It passed the Senate and House overwhelmingly—91-6 and 377–28, respectively, and was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. When he signed the law, Bush said:
Now I sign legislation which takes a sledgehammer to another wall, one which has for too many generations separated Americans with disabilities from the freedom they could glimpse, but not grasp. Once again, we rejoice as this barrier falls for claiming together we will not accept, we will not excuse, we will not tolerate discrimination in America…. To those Members of the House of Representatives with us here today, Democrats and Republicans as well, I salute you. And on your behalf, as well as the behalf of this entire country, I now lift my pen to sign this Americans with Disabilities Act and say: Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.
Eighteen years later, Bush’s son George W. Bush signed some expansions of the ADA into law.

Since then, however, things have sputtered. In 2012, the Senate failed to ratify a United Nations treaty called the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. Democrats supported the treaty, but Republicans were split. On the pro side were George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole, the former Senate GOP leader and presidential candidate who was injured during World War II. On the con side were a bloc who warned on extremely dubious grounds that the treaty would allow the UN to meddle in U.S. courts. In the end, the treaty failed, despite Dole himself appearing on the Senate floor to lobby. It needed two-thirds of votes to pass, but was only able to garner 61