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Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the ADA

July 22, 2015 10:32 AM


IMG_37021July 26th marks the official 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act but the celebrations started earlier. President Obama welcomed 150 guests to a grand ADA celebration and press conference on July 20th.  The President and Vice President Biden were introduced by Haben Girma, the first Harvard Law School graduate to be deaf and blind.

In addition to historical comments and highlights of what his administration is doing in the spirit of the ADA, the President shared his personal experiences with disability within his family. Michelle Obama’s father was diagnosed with M.S. in his 30s, eventually struggling to walk with canes, but never being late for work or even missing a day.  He would show up an hour early for basketball games and dance recitals of his children so he could take his time finding his way to a seat without disturbing other attendees. Because his father-in-law viewed his disability as more of a burden to others than a right to accommodations, he never availed himself of things like an electric scooter that would have eased his mobility and expanded what he could do and the places he could go. The President used his father-in-law as an example of how much the ADA has changed our expectations and the very fabric of our society by opening doors to people with disability and ensuring their rightful place in society.

IMG_26421Our very own Executive Director, Andi Farbman, and her husband, Robert Burgdorf were among the guests at the White House celebration. During the birth of the ADA, Andi served as the Director of Congressional and Public Affairs for the National Council on Disability, actively lobbying for the passage of the ADA.

As many of you know, it was her husband who single-handedly wrote the original draft of the ADA while on staff at the National Council on Disability, having been a pioneering disability rights advocate in the early 1970s when the disability rights movement was just forming. Bob has continued to be a prolific writer on disability rights and the accomplishments and limitations of the ADA. For his thoughts on the 25th anniversary, see   He is currently working on a book detailing the beginnings of the disability rights movement and how the ADA came to be.



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