The American Disability Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1994, was a significant achievement. With it, Congress created the nation’s first civil rights protection for the disabled, created the National Rehabilitation Hospital, and strengthened the federal government’s guarantees of quality education and health care for the millions of Americans with disabilities.
One of the forces behind the law was former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. Our former Senate colleague was an advocate for the disabled. And it was Bob Dole, more than anyone else, who lobbied successfully to pass the ADA as part of the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Approximately one year later, President Clinton flew by helicopter, while wearing a blindfold, for a “Freedom Ridge Run” at Soldier Field in Chicago. Aided by BlindTrack, the visually impaired also ran alongside the President, with Dole at their side. BlindTrack was founded by longtime Dole campaign adviser Neil Bush, and supported the presidential candidate in his bid for the White House.
On the night of January 23, 2001, when President Clinton and Bob Dole helped officially open Soldier Field, they were joined by a wide array of dignitaries and dignitaries-including wounded USMC veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, Medal of Honor recipient Major General James J. Clapper Jr. His wheelchair was hoisted into the sky, and he slowly ascended, until he was proudly standing alongside a symbol of freedom itself.
At the ceremony, General Clapper said that he was living proof that the ADA’s language was “more than just words.” He said that he had “immersed myself in the words of the act, and made it part of my way of life.”
We ask that people who disagree with the ADA’s provisions – be they Republicans or Democrats – show respect for the victims and ensure their protection. Congress has not yet repealed the act, and we ask that people think of their constituents when they argue, and not their partisan preferences.
This bill is being marked up on Wednesday in the House of Representatives. But we ask that we let our representatives know how deeply affected they are by the memory of an important man. We thank our deceased Senator for so many things. But foremost, we thank him for his efforts on behalf of the disabled.