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Saturday, December 1, 2018

Bush and Disabilities

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

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed PL 101-476, which changed the title of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The new law added two categories of eligibility to federal special education law -- autism and traumatic brain injury -- and mandated transition services.

In the same year, Bush also signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the nation's first comprehensive civil rights law addressing the needs of people with disabilities, prohibiting discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications.

The Bush administration's role in ADA was not passive.  As Joseph P. Shaprio explained in his book, No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement, EEOC Chairman Evan Kemp and White House counsel C. Boyden Gray played key roles in passing the law.

And today, America welcomes into the mainstream of life all of our fellow citizens with disabilities. We embrace you for your abilities and for your disabilities, for our similarities and indeed for our differences, for your past courage and your future dreams. Last year, we celebrated a victory of international freedom. Even the strongest person couldn't scale the Berlin Wall to gain the elusive promise of independence that lay just beyond. And so, together we rejoiced when that barrier fell.
And 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.
With, again, great thanks to the Members of the United States Senate, leaders of whom are here today, and those who worked so tirelessly for this legislation on both sides of the aisles. And 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. God bless you all.