You know, one of my first acts as a United States senator — I know I don’t look old enough to do it — (laughter) — but one of my first acts was I voted — I was a co-sponsor of the Rehabilitation Act, which was — (applause) — the first time in our nation’s history we declared in law what we knew to be true: that Americans with disabilities deserve dignity, respect, and an equal chance at the American Dream.
The Rehabilitation Act is one of the most consequential civil rights laws in our nation’s history, banning discrimination on the basis of disability by any entity funded by the federal government.
The Rehabilitation Act laid the groundwork for another landmark law celebrated today: the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Steny Hoyer led the charge in the House along with Major Robert — excuse me, Major Robert Owens and Tony Coelho — I don’t know, T- — (applause) — as well as Tom Harkin and Bob Dole. They led the fight in the Senate.
You know, I was enormously proud to be a senator — a Senate cosponsor.
Today, three decades after its passage, many of us can still recall the America where a person with disability could be denied service in a restaurant or a grocery store, where an employer could refuse to hire because of the disability.
And when we passed this law, we made a commitment to build an America for all Americans — for all Americans.
Perhaps most importantly, we did it together. This was a bipartisan bill, signed into law by a Republican president, George H.W. Bush, 33 years ago on this spot on the South Lawn of the White House.