Site search

Site menu:

Find Out More

Archives

Categories

Contact Us

Subscribe to Email Updates

Archive for 'Disability History'

Records of Right Vote: Americans with Disabilities Act

Today is the last day to vote! Do you want the Americans with Disabilities Act to be displayed first in the new “Records of Rights” gallery? Vote now! 

Today’s guest post was written by Amber Powell, archivist at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library.

At the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (known as the ADA) on July 26, 1990, President George H.W.  Bush said, “Three weeks ago we celebrated our nation’s Independence Day.  Today we’re here to rejoice in and celebrate another ’Independence Day,’ one that is long overdue. With today’s signing of the landmark Americans for Disabilities Act, every man, woman and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence and freedom.”

The ADA proved to be a comprehensive declaration of equality, expanding federal civil rights laws to include disabled Americans. The legislation prohibits discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications.

Introduced in Congress on April 28, 1988, the ADA progressed through numerous drafts and revisions. The final bill was a product of the negotiations between President George H.W. Bush and Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, with input from business organizations, disability rights groups, and concerned citizens. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on the Handicapped, … [ Read all ]

Archives Spotlight: Making the Constitution accessible

October is American Archives Month! To celebrate, we’re running a series of “spotlights” on the many locations that make up the National Archives. Today’s post features the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, and was written by Rick Blondo, management and program analyst at the National Archives.

The Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights are on permanent display in the Rotunda at the National Archives Building. But up until 2003, some visitors could not easily see these important documents or the documents displayed along with them.

The design of the original display cases, built in 1935, meant that items were displayed flat or nearly flat with the front edge of the cases about 40 inches above the floor. This height and angle made it nearly impossible for young children or people in wheelchairs to see the documents.

New display cases, installed as part of a building-wide renovation from 2000 to 2005, make those documents easily viewable by all visitors. During the renovation, we learned there was no accessible design standard for exhibit display cases containing original archival records. We consulted with experts and used a mock-up to test different heights and angles of display.

In 1999, volunteers tested and scored the original display cases and a mock-up. Three volunteers—two adults and one child—were in wheelchairs. The other eight volunteers—six adults and two children—were ambulatory

[ Read all ]

Disability History from the Presidential Libraries

Today’s blog post is written by Susan K. Donius and Sierra Gregg. Susan K. Donius is the Director of the Office of Presidential Libraries at the National Archives and Records Administration. Sierra Gregg is a summer intern at the National Archives and a senior at Truman State University in Missouri, where she is studying Computer Science. This year, she was awarded a scholarship from the National Federation of the Blind

This year marks the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the act into law on the White House South Lawn in front of an audience of 3000 people. On that day, America became the first country to adopt a comprehensive civil rights declaration for people with disabilities. The ADA was a landmark moment in history, designed to provide universal accessibility in the areas of employment, public service, public accommodations, and telecommunications. As President Obama noted in 2009 at the signing of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Proclamation, the ADA “was a formal acknowledgment that Americans with disabilities are Americans first, and they are entitled to the same rights and freedoms as everybody else:  a right to belong and participate fully in the American experience; a right to dignity and respect in the workplace and beyond; the freedom to make of … [ Read all ]

A letter to the President—in Braille

This week marks the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The National Archives holds many records that relate to American citizens with disabilities. From personal letters to historic legislation, these records from the Presidential Libraries provide insight into disability history.

For the opening of the Public Vaults exhibition at the National Archives Building in 2004, public affairs specialist Miriam Kleiman was assigned to track down and bring to Washington some of the people mentioned in the exhibition. This is her account of her search for John Beaulieu.

I was intrigued by the letters from children in the “Dear Uncle Sam” section of the “Form a More Perfect Union” vault. One unusual letter in the stack interested me a great deal—a letter written in Braille to President Dwight D. Eisenhower by a young boy in the fall of 1956.

Thirteen-year-old John Beaulieu offered the President the following campaign stump speech: “Vote for me. I will help you out. I will lower the prices and also your tax bill. I also will help the negroes, so that they may go to school.”

The return address listed Perkins School for the Blind (Helen Keller’s alma mater) in Watertown, Massachusetts. After my Internet searches led nowhere, I called the Perkins School but was not optimistic. After all, John had not been a student there for nearly 50 … [ Read all ]