July 31, 2020

30 Years After Americans With Disabilities Act, A Look Back And Ahead

By Amie Rivers

DES MOINES, Iowa — President George H.W. Bush was on board, and former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and his colleagues made sure it passed the U.S. Senate. But in early March of 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act, a civil rights bill for individuals with disabilities, was stalled in the House of Representatives.

“It got stuck in a lot of different committees,” Harkin remembered. “We were all worried that we weren’t going to get the bill.”

It wasn’t until members of ADAPT, a disability activist organization, showed up at the U.S. Capitol and staged a protest for the television cameras — taking themselves voluntarily out of their wheelchairs and climbing the Capitol building steps however they could — that attention became focused on the cause.