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Archive for 'Disability History'

Towards Freedom and Equality: The Americans With Disabilities Act

Today’s post comes from Rebecca Brenner, an intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, D.C.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, July 26, 1990, page 1. (National Archives Identifier 6037488)

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, July 26, 1990, page 1. (National Archives Identifier 6037488)

July marks the 25th anniversary of the historic moment when President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ADA prohibits employers, the government, and transportation, among other agencies and institutions, from discriminating against people with disabilities on the basis of their disabilities.

On July 26, 1990, a White House press release stated: “The American people have once again given clear expression to our most basic ideals of freedom and equality.”

Like other movements for freedom and equality, the disability community endured years of discrimination before the ADA established their equality under the law.

However, even before 1990, 1973 marked a turning point, when Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act banned discrimination against people with disabilities in the allocation of Federal funds. Previous antidiscrimination laws regarding race, ethnicity, and gender influenced this new legislation.

This law helped to build solidarity among people with different disabilities, and from 1973 through 1990, the disability community battled against trends of general deregulation across the government.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, July 26, 1990, signature page. (National Archives Identifier 6037488)

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, July 26, 1990, signature page. (National Archives Identifier 6037488)

Finally, on July 26, 1990, the ADA established “a clear and … [ Read all ]

On Exhibit: Americans with Disabilities Act

Today’s post comes from Alex Nieuwsma, an intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC. 

Americans with Disabilities Act, July 26, 1990. (General Records of the U.S. Government, National Archives)

Americans with Disabilities Act, July 26, 1990. (General Records of the U.S. Government, National Archives)

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, signed by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990, forbids employers from discriminating against mentally or physically disabled employees. It also instituted accessibility requirements for buildings and public transportation, such as ramps for wheelchairs and posting signs in Braille.

The disability rights movement grew following the successes of the civil rights and women’s rights movements of the 1960s.

The movement’s first big success came with the Rehabilitation Act, signed in 1973 by President Richard Nixon. The Rehabilitation Act prohibits the discrimination of the disabled by any Federal agencies, Federal programs, or Federally contracted employers.

The private sector did not fall under the Rehabilitation Act and was still able to fire (or not hire) employees based solely on their disability. Additionally, many buildings were inaccessible to the disabled, especially those aided by wheelchairs. It soon became clear that a broader law encompassing all employers needed to be passed.

Americans with Disabilities Act, July 26, 1990. (General Records of the U.S. Government, National Archives)

Americans with Disabilities Act, July 26, 1990. (General Records of the U.S. Government, National Archives)

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines “disability” as, having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more “major life activities.” The law … [ Read all ]

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.”

On July 26, 1990, President George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. With him on the South Lawn of the White House are (from left to right, sitting) Evan Kemp, Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Justin Dart, Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities; and (left to right, standing) Rev. Harold Wilke and Swift Parrino, Chairperson, National Council on Disability. Image from the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library.

On July 26, 1990, President George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. With him on the South Lawn of the White House are (from left to right, sitting) Evan Kemp, Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Justin Dart, Chairman of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities; and (left to right, standing) Rev. Harold Wilke and Swift Parrino, Chairperson, National Council on Disability. Image from the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library.

The ADA proved to be a comprehensive declaration of equality, expanding federal civil rights laws to include disabled Americans. The legislation … [ 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.

In 1999, National Archives staff members Bruce Ashkenas and Bob Menoche rated the original display cases.

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.

The original cases were rated poorly by short testers.

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

[ Read all ]

Disability History from the Presidential Libraries

First Page of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Read the transcript: http://www.archives.gov/research/americans-with-disabilities/transcriptions/naid-6037488-americans-with-disabilities-act-of-1990.html

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 … [ Read all ]