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George Bush and the Americans with Disabilities Act

George Bush and the Americans with Disabilities Act


By Edward Berkowitz, Ph.D., Professor of History and Public Policy and Public Administration and Director of the Program in History and Public Policy

George Washington University, Washington, D.C.


When George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 1990, he did so with a great sense of enthusiasm and ceremony. The President viewed the legislation as a humanitarian gesture that would nonetheless pay substantial political dividends. In this regard, the legislation fit a long historical pattern. As with other forms of social welfare legislation, however, the President and his party failed to collect the political dividends. 1

The Ceremony

On July 18, only five days after the legislation had cleared Congress, the White House Office of Public Liaison mailed thousands of letters to leaders of the disability rights movement inviting them to a special ceremony on the South Lawn. At first, White House staff had contemplated using the East Room for the event. That location had the advantages of protection from the fierce mid-summer heat and of a fitting historical resonance: it was the site on which President Lyndon Johnson had signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. That 1964 legislation was the closest analogue to the ADA since the ADA did for people with disabilities what the 1964 law had done for other minorities. In the minds of the leaders of the disability rights movement, the advantages of the East Room were outweighed by its small size. They contemplated a ceremony with as many as 3,000 people, and the White House obliged.

The event itself went off without a hitch. No one in the audience, composed largely of people in wheel chairs and people with sensory impairments, succumbed to the heat, even though the temperature was in the 80s and would reach 92 degrees by the afternoon. In keeping with the spirit of the legislation and the time of the year, the White House chose an Independence Day theme for the ceremony. The Marine Band played such Fourth of July standards as “Stars and Stripes Forever” before launching into “Hail to the Chief.”

The tone of the ceremony was both presidential and partisan. Appearing on a raised stage with the Ellipse and the Washington Monument as a backdrop, the President claimed the ADA as one of his administration’s proudest accomplishments. He linked the legislation with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Just as the Berlin Wall represented an obstacle to freedom, so economic and social barriers kept people from disabilities from enjoying lives of “Independence, freedom of choice, control … and the opportunity to blend fully and equally into the right mosaic of the American mainstream.” The Americans with Disabilities Act promised to lower those barriers. “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down,” said the President as he lifted his pen to sign the legislation.

In the speech and in the pictures of the event, the White House kept the focus on Republicans. Instead of mentioning the many Democratic Congressmen who had worked on the legislation, the President chose to single out Republican Minority Leader Robert Dole for special praise. Not only did Dole work hard on the legislation, he also belonged to the group that would benefit from it.

On the platform with President and Mrs. Bush were three other key Republicans and members of the disability rights community. Justin Dart, the son of one of President Reagan’s closest friends, a former businessman, and a wheelchair user, had served in both the Reagan and Bush administrations and had convened special hearings to gather support for the ADA from coast to coast. Sandra Parrino, the mother of a disabled child, chaired the National Council on Disability, the federal agency most responsible for the legislation. Evan Kemp, the chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a lawyer and a wheelchair user, had counseled President Bush on disability issues for the greater part of a decade and urged him to become an advocate of disability rights.

On this particular day, Kemp introduced the President to the crowd by comparing him to another Republican president. “Like Lincoln,” said Kemp, President Bush had the courage to take an unpopular stand in favor of civil rights. The metaphor of breaking the chains of slavery was adopted by Reverend Harold Wilkie in his opening prayer. Born without hands, Reverend Wilkie symbolized the inherent ability and dignity of people with disabilities.

The Contents of the Law

The legislation that President Bush signed contained four significant titles. Title I prohibited discrimination in hiring and on the job against qualified individuals with disabilities. It required businesses of more than fifteen employees to provide “reasonable accommodations” to people with disabilities unless the accommodations posed an “undue hardship” for the business. Title II outlawed discrimination in governmental and public activities, including public transportation. Among other things, it mandated that all new buses purchased for public transportation be made accessible to people with mobility impairments. The third title concerned public accommodations and required that such entities as hotels, restaurants, theaters, and shops be available for use by people with disabilities. Stopping short of requiring that all architectural barriers be removed, the title established the standard that removal be “readily achievable,” “able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.” Title IV sought to ensure that interstate and intrastate telecommunication relay systems were available for use by speech and hearing impaired individuals.

Civil Rights as a Republican Issue

The scope of the law meant that President Bush endorsed, supported, and signed the most ambitious piece of civil rights legislation in the nation’s history. Here was an important paradox. The Republicans and George Bush used civil rights as a wedge issue to separate majority whites from minority blacks, yet Republicans and particularly George Bush viewed civil rights for people with disabilities as ideologically compatible with the Republican approach toward government. The differences in the presidential rhetoric were striking. President Bush did not hesitate to link civil rights proposals with the establishment of hiring quotas. Two months before signing the ADA, he called quotas “wrong… they violate the most basic principles of our civil rights tradition and the most basic principles of the promise of democracy.” At the same time, the President regarded the ADA as a means toward allowing people with disabilities “to achieve their highest priority, namely, the independence necessary to achieve control over their own lives and integration into the mainstream of American life.”

In the President’s view, the ADA brought civil rights law back to its original promise as a force of integration, not as a form of special treatment that amounted to segregation. According to this construction of the problem, it made as much sense for President Bush to support the ADA as it did for conservative Republican Everett Dirksen to back the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In both cases, Republicans provided crucial leadership that made the difference between victory and defeat.

Deep in the middle of the fight for the ADA, James Brady contributed an op-ed piece for the New York Times that argued the case for the ADA as a Republican piece of legislation. First, Brady, the former Press Secretary for President Reagan and a highly visible member of the disability rights movement after the attempt on the President’s life had involuntarily brought him into that status, noted that he was a Republican and a fiscal conservative. Second, he declared his pride that the legislation had been developed by a group he described as “15 Republicans appointed to the National Council on Disability by President Reagan.” Third, he pointed to a historical tradition of Republican support for disability rights. He explained that President Eisenhower had urged that people with disabilities “become taxpayers and consumers instead of being dependent upon costly Federal benefits.” He concluded that ADA was an outgrowth of Eisenhower’s philosophy and that it would “save taxpayers billions of dollars by outlawing discrimination, putting disabled people on the job rolls and thereby reducing Government disability payments.”

Although Brady probably did not know it, President Eisenhower made disability legislation a centerpiece of his domestic program in 1954. In place of those who urged that Social Security be extended to pay benefits to people with disabilities, Eisenhower advocated the extension of vocational rehabilitation. The proponents of Social Security wanted to pay people with disabilities not to work; Eisenhower proposed instead that they receive special counseling and other services, if necessary by means of federal funds, in order to get jobs.

Eisenhower’s 1954 program demonstrated that the Republican version of the welfare state, even in the 1950s, emphasized the provision of opportunity, rather than the maintenance of income. Twenty-five years later, the ADA appealed to the Republican Brady as a logical extension of the opportunity society. To use the sports cliché, the ADA would help to level the playing field and enable people with disabilities to compete in the labor market. As such people obtained jobs, they would leave the welfare and Social Security rolls and, as Brady noted, save billions of dollars. In this manner, civil rights in the 1980s and 1990s served the same purpose as vocational rehabilitation in the 1950s. The ADA, in sum, was not a cost to society, as the Republicans believed quotas were, but rather a source of opportunity.

The Antecedents to the ADA

More immediate legislative antecedents to the ADA than the vocational rehabilitation program were two recent civil rights laws. The development of the ADA could be described in a historical equation: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 plus the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 equaled the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. By setting the basic terms of civil rights legislation in America, the 1964 law provided goals for the disability rights movement to reach. Simply put, people with disabilities wanted to obtain parity with blacks and women, and the 1964 law, more than other single statute, defined what these other minority groups had gained. The 1973 law both brought the same protections as provided in Title VI (affecting the recipients of aid from federal programs) of the 1964 law to people with disabilities.

More importantly, the process of implementing the 1973 law forced government officials to think about how to put the notion of civil rights for people with disabilities into operation. What made sense for women and blacks did not necessarily make sense for people with disabilities. The classic example of a difference concerned the blind bus driver. Even if blind people were otherwise qualified for the job, they would make bad bus drivers. Regulators had therefore to discriminate among groups of the handicapped in ways that had no clear analogue in other civil rights statutes. Similarly, regulators faced the problem of how to balance costs and benefits. Some architectural modifications to gain handicapped accessibility, such as widening the staircases on a 17th century building, would be prohibitively expensive. The solution was to establish an “undue hardship” standard. If the modification constituted an “undue hardship,” then it need not be made. Through the development of these legal terms, the government officials who wrote the regulations for the 1973 law created an operational vocabulary for disability rights: a translation of the 1964 law into concepts that made sense for people with disabilities.

It took until 1977 for Joseph Califano, Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, to sign the regulations putting the civil rights portions of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act into operation. As a result of this delay, civil rights for people with disabilities did not reemerge as a significant legislative issue until the Reagan administration. That administration maintained an initial wariness and distance from taking the next logical steps of extending civil rights for people with disabilities to cover employment and public accommodations. In time, however, the Reagan administration came to rediscover civil rights for people with disabilities as a Republican measure.

George Bush was a prominent member of the Reagan administration, and the issue of disability rights crossed his path several times. As the head of a Task Force for Regulatory Relief, Bush had reason to want to abolish the elaborate regulations attached to the 1973 law. In response to this threat, leaders of the disability rights movement shifted their rhetoric. During the Carter years, they spoke of entitlements. In the Reagan years, they learned to stress their desire for independence. Working through Republicans such as Evan Kemp, disability rights activists succeeded in persuading George Bush and other important figures in the Reagan administration not to dismantle the civil rights regulations. C Boyden Gray, Bush’s counsel on the Task Force for Regulatory Relief and later his chief counsel in the White House, came to the conclusion that the administration and the handicapped wanted the same thing, “to turn as many of the disabled as possible into taxpaying citizens.”

In the meantime, the National Council on the Handicapped, working through Justin Dart and its staff director Lex Frieden, began the process of drafting the next disability rights law. In a 1986 report that Frieden and staff member Robert L. Burgdorff Jr. helped to write, the National Council included a recommendation that “Congress should enact a comprehensive law requiring equal opportunity for people with disabilities.” The council suggested, “Such a statute should be packaged as a single comprehensive bill, perhaps under such a title as ‘The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1986.'” The administration that officially accepted the report was Vice President Bush.

The ADA as Legislation and Campaign Issue

In 1988 Council members persuaded Senator Lowell Weicker, a liberal Republican Senator from National Council member Sandra Parrino’s home state of Connecticut, to introduce the Americans with Disabilities Act. Recognizing that any hope of passage depended upon securing Democratic sponsors, Weicker suggested that the advocates also approach Tom Harkin, a liberal Democrat from Iowa with definite presidential aspirations, to serve as a co-sponsor. Both Weicker and Harkin had personal reasons to be sympathetic to the legislation. Weicker was the father of a child with Down syndrome; Harkin’s brother was deaf.

By the time the legislation was introduced in April, the presidential campaign was well underway. George Bush emerged as an early supporter of the bill. Achieving the independence of people with disabilities, the Vice President said, required “aggressive public and private support.” Part of that support was “Federal legislation that gives people with disabilities the same protection in private employment that is now enjoyed by women and minorities.” In August 1988, candidate Bush attended the swearing-in of Paul Hearne as Lex Frieden’s successor as the Executive Director of the National Council of the Handicapped. On that occasion, he specifically called for enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1988.

Although both candidates endorsed the ADA in the 1988 election, George Bush pursued the cause with more devotion than Michael Dukakis. When Michael Dukakis discussed disability policy, as he did in a statement prepared for the 1988 hearings on the ADA, he mentioned the ADA–that was something on which the parties could agree–but he also felt compelled to discuss other policy issues and initiatives. He criticized the Reagan administration for the wholesale manner in which it threw people off the disability rolls in the early 80s. He implied that his administration would protect the benefit rights of people with disabilities. He also highlighted health insurance as an important issue for people with disabilities. In other words, Dukakis punched the Democratic themes of health and income security. For him civil rights protection was just one of the things that people with disabilities needed and it was not necessarily the most important. As Judy Heuman, a partisan Democrat who later worked in the Clinton administration and an important figure in the disability rights movement, later put it, “the ADA by itself will not result in equality for disabled people.” Instead, such things as funding for independent living services and national health insurance were required. Republican George Bush did not carry this extra baggage. For him and for his Republican colleagues, the need for civil rights superseded the need for more intrusive and expensive social welfare initiatives. Hence, he attached greater importance to the passage of the ADA than Michael Dukakis.

After George Bush won the election, his transition team received a memo from the Louis Harris polling company that attributed a large part of his victory to the support he received from people with disabilities. The memo argued that one to three points of Bush’s seven-point margin were the result of a swing from traditionally Democratic people with disabilities toward Bush after they heard of Bush’s support for disability rights. The Louis Harris data suggested that the election came down to four million votes and that “two of those four million votes came from disabled people who changed their minds during the course of the campaign and voted for the Vice President.” Whether or not the evidence was accurate, it indicated that George Bush’s support of the Americans with Disabilities Act made good politics. It was one of the campaign promises that deserved to be fulfilled.

Congressional and Presidential Politics

After the 1988 election, the fate of the ADA was determined by a combination of Congressional and Presidential politics. The initial consideration of the ADA in the summer and fall of 1988 was cut short by the Presidential campaign. Supporters of the measure used the election period to modify the legislation so that it would appeal to Congressional leaders and the Bush administration. By May 9, 1989, a new version of the legislation was ready, and hearings began in the Senate. As chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, Senator Edward Kennedy enjoyed an impressive measure of influence over the bill. So did Harkin, who was the original sponsor and who chaired a subcommittee of Kennedy’s committee that was concerned with the handicapped.

During the hearings, Senator Harkin pointed out all that had been done to modify the bill. In the original version, for example, a firm needed to make accommodations for people with disabilities unless such actions sent the firm into bankruptcy. The 1989 version only required that the accommodation be readily achievable. In the original draft, all buses had to be retrofitted to accommodate the disabled; the 1989 draft restricted that requirement to new buses. Through these sorts of modifications, the Congressional sponsors hoped to allay the fears of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations that the ADA would be too costly to implement.
Although the President strongly supported the general notion of the ADA, he did not immediately endorse the 1989 version. More so than the Senators, the President and his administration needed to balance the needs of people with disabilities against the needs of businessmen. Harkin and Kennedy continued to insist that the legislation was bipartisan, and both went out of their way to praise Bush. Harkin went so far as to say “no President of the United States, Republican or Democrat, has ever said the things about disabled Americans that George Bush has said. No President, including the President who was in a wheel-chair, Franklin Roosevelt.” Despite the flattery, the President hung back. Senator Dole assured his colleagues that the President wanted an ADA bill but noted that the administration was new. “Now let’s face it,” said Dole, “we’ve got a new administration; some people aren’t in place yet.” Dole mentioned that the White House staff had not yet had time to focus on the ADA. It took until June 22 for the administration to testify on the bill. Appearing before Senator Kennedy, Attorney General Dick Thornburgh’s indicated the administration’s general approval but also expressed some reservations.

Thus began an intensive period of what Kennedy described as “long tough hard bargaining sessions” between Congressional Democrats, such as Kennedy, and administration officials, such as John Sununu and Thornburgh. In part these sessions served to put a bipartisan stamp on the final product and to ensure that both political parties received credit for the bill. In part these sessions provided private forums to work out important details. For example, the Democrats wanted to allow disabled people to sue for punitive damages, but the administration preferred to restrict the legal remedies to those prescribed in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, such as restoration of back pay. In the course of the negotiations, the Democrats yielded on this point. In return, the administration gave way on its desire to limit the entities covered by the public accommodations section of the bill to hotels, motels, restaurants, and theaters. Instead, the law would apply to a broad array of institutions, such as grocery stores and banks.

On August 2, 1989, Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater announced that the Senators and the administration had come to an agreement. Fitzwater explained that the President wanted to bring persons with disabilities into the mainstream but he wanted to do so “through a framework that allows for maximum flexibility to implement effective solutions, builds on existing law to avoid unnecessary confusion and litigation and attains these goals without imposing undue burdens.” Despite these reassurances, business leaders still complained about the measure, arguing that it would cost them hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Much of the business protest, muted somewhat by the White House approval of the bill, centered on the fear that the ADA would lead to endless costly litigation. “Leaving reasonableness (as in the concept of reasonable accommodation) to the discretion of the courts is scary,” said the head of the Greyhound Bus Company.

Business groups adopted a “yes, but” approach to the legislation, trying to gain concessions yet not opposing the law. The business groups recognized that, with such strong support from the administration and the Democratic leadership, few Congressmen could afford to vote against the bill. Nancy Fulco of the United States Chamber of Commerce bluntly stated that, “No politician can vote against this bill and survive.” Kennedy’s committee, reporting the bill out at the end of August, did its best to continue the process of reassurance that the administration had begun.

The report stressed the cautious way in which the law would be implemented, the savings in government expenditures, and the low costs of complying with the bill. It would take two years for the employment features to go into effect, and even then the law would affect only employers with more than 25 workers. Four years would elapse before the law reached employers with fewer than 25 employees, and those businesses with less than fifteen workers would not be affected by the employment provisions in the law at all. Companies like Greyhound would have five years in which to make their buses accessible. Eliminating welfare costs for previously unemployed disabled people would save billions of dollars. Most accommodations, such as providing an indicator light for a deaf medical technician, cost little. So, although the head of Woolworths complained of “ruinous” costs, the report provided the prelude to the Senate’s passage of the ADA on September 7, 1989 by a comfortable margin of 76 to 8.

Complaints from liberals and conservatives indicated the success of the sponsors’ search for the political center. Mary Johnson, the outspoken editor of the grass-roots publication called the Disability Rag, dismissed the measure as little more than a “public-spirited gesture… a low-risk commitment to a relatively unorganized group … a relatively painless way for the Republican Party to woo a new constituency.” Susan Mandel, writing in the conservative National Review said that “ignorance” on the part of Congressmen and “fear” of political reprisal “may be enough to gain the passage of the most disruptive piece of civil rights legislation in our history.”

Complications in the House

Complications in the House delayed the final passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Two factors in particular led to the delay. One was the resignation of Tony Coelho, the bill’s chief sponsor in the House, in the early summer of 1989. The other was the need to send the legislation to no fewer than four House committees. Although the counterpart to Kennedy’s committee on Labor and Human Resources acted with dispatch, the other committees took until well into the spring of 1990 before reporting out the legislation.

With the passage of time, the possibility for political conflict increased. By the spring of 1990, a new controversy arose over the legal remedies available under the Act. Some Congressional Democrats wanted to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to allow for punitive damages, and the Senate bill said that the penalties in the ADA would be the same as those in the 1964 Act. Hence, the Senate bill allowed for the payment of punitive damages under the ADA if the amendments to the Civil Rights Act should pass. The Bush administration wanted to guard against this possibility by limiting the legal remedies to those in the 1964 Act, not the 1964 Act as amended. In this manner, Attorney General Thornburgh and other administration officials hoped to restrict penalties to court injunctions directing a business to stop discriminating and to reinstatement and back pay for those fired or not promoted as a result of discrimination. If the matter were not resolved in a satisfactory manner, senior administration threatened that President Bush might withdraw his support. As the controversy unfolded, protesters in wheelchairs staged a demonstration in the Capitol Rotunda, urging the passage of the ADA.

On May 22, 1990, the administration lost the battle over the penalties to be included in the ADA. By a close vote of 227 to 196, the House defeated an amendment offered by James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) that would have limited the penalties to those in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The House then passed the legislation by a wide margin. The only peculiarity in the process was the inclusion of an amendment concerning people infected with AIDs or other communicable diseases. The amendment allowed restaurants and similar establishments to transfer people with an infectious and communicable disease such as AIDS from jobs in which they handled food. In the House version, the person needed to pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others before he or she could be transferred.
The food handling amendment required the formation of a conference committee. In the end, Senator Hatch succeeded in brokering a compromise in which the Senate version prevailed but in which the Secretary of HHS was directed to publish a list of diseases that could be transmitted through food handling.

The Mixed Political Legacy of the ADA

In the meantime, the administration made it clear that President Bush would not veto the legislation. By this time the administration had too much invested in the law even to contemplate such a veto. On the contrary, it moved swiftly to celebrate the ADA’s passage after the Senate’s final acceptance of the conference report on July 13, 1990. The President announced that he was delighted with the acceptance of the conference report and looked forward “with great pleasure” to signing the bill. The result was the celebration of Independence Day I, as the disability rights advocates called it, on the South Lawn of the White House. “I am proud of America,” exalted Justin Dart. The President, despite his exuberant rhetoric about taking a sledgehammer to the wall of exclusion, exercised more caution. Noting that the law provided flexibility and contained many features designed to contain costs, he directly confronted the fears of the business community that the law would be expensive and result in a quagmire of litigation.

In time President Bush lost some of his caution with regard to the ADA. On the brink of another Congressional election in November 1990, he referred to the ADA as historic legislation. Just before the President left Washington in 1993, he attended a lunch at which Robert Dole predicted that people would look back on the passage of the ADA as “one of George Bush’s greatest achievements.”

Whether or not it was a great achievement, and the early evidence is mixed, it was not a great enough achievement to keep George Bush in office. One of the reasons he lost the election of 1992 was the arrival of the Bush recession, which not only turned many voters against him but also limited the gains that could be achieved through the ADA. A weak economy provided an uncertain platform from which to launch the legislation. To cite one example, the Social Security and welfare disability rolls did not decline in response to the implementation of the ADA. Instead, the weak economy caused more people with disabilities to drop out of the labor force and swelled the rolls. Government-related disability costs went up, not down in the years following passage of the ADA. In the sluggish economy, businesses hesitated to make the sort of accommodations that would have enabled large numbers of people with disabilities to get jobs.

A further irony was that George Bush fell victim to a familiar Republican problem with regard to social welfare legislation. Because the ADA was the product of a Democratic Congress, it became difficult for President Bush to take credit for it, despite the tremendous effort that he and his administration put into it. As in nearly all social welfare legislation, the Democrats could easily outbid the Republicans on its terms. In this case, the Democrats and many members of the disability rights community had wanted punitive damages to be explicitly included in the bill; it was the White House that said no to that. Furthermore, Senators Harkin and Kennedy and Representative Steny Hoyer achieved a great deal of visibility in the passage of the legislation. Even on the day of President Bush’s triumph on the White House South Lawn, the celebrants soon migrated across the street and heard speeches from Senator Harkin and other Democrats in the park on the Ellipse.

When the election arrived, the Bush administration created the Americans with Disabilities for Bush-Quayle ’92. Justin Dart, Evan Kemp, and Mrs. Ginny Thornburgh headed the group. Justin Dart explained his enthusiasm for the President by noting that, “More than other President in history, George Bush has been a leader in elevating perceptions of people with disabilities from pitiful candidates for paternalistic charity to fully adult Americans with potential be fully productive… Unlike his opponent, he refuses to treat us as children.” Evan Kemp, for his part, said that the country would not have had the ADA “without the personal push by President Bush,” and he was undoubtedly right.

The Democrats nonetheless countered with a letter from Tom Harkin and Steny Hoyer to disability rights leaders. The real impetus for the ADA, they claimed, came not from President Bush but from “the testimony of thousands of Americans with disabilities and their advocates.” The Senator and the Congressman pointed that an overwhelming percentage of the original co-sponsors of the legislation in both Houses were Democrats. “Let’s face it. Republicans in Congress and the White House have opposed or whittled down civil rights legislation for more than three decades. The ADA is no exception.”


Not historians but rather partisan politicians in the middle of contested campaign, Harkin and Hoyer perhaps did not understand that the ADA was indeed an exception. The acceptance of the ADA by President George Bush and his administration was far from grudging. On the contrary, it fit a long pattern of Republican support for disability policy that emphasized independence in the labor force over dependence on the welfare rolls. George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990 with real enthusiasm. The moment represented the celebration of a legislative victory and the culmination of a long campaign. But the celebration could not be sustained through the next Presidential election. By then the country kept to a twentieth century tradition and elected a Democratic president in a time of recession. By then, too, the triumphs to which the President referred in his July 26 speech seemed less certain.

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Berkowitz, E. (2017). George Bush and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved from

2 Replies to “George Bush and the Americans with Disabilities Act”

  1. […] universal access that arose in the 1970’s. However, an unlikely friendship developed between then Vice President George Bush and Justin Dart, that would change the landscape for the disability community. This bond steered the path for the […]

  2. Great Read! It makes me wonder if things might be more civil had a polarizing bill like ObamaCare been measured by both sides of the isle for little bit longer….instead of being pushed/rushed through without legitimate debate/concessions. I get the sense that both sides understood the impact that the ADA would have on future generations of Americans. For this reason, both sides understood the importance of getting it right, FOR AMERICA….and not for a party. Today’s politics are all about the party while America takes a back seat. Politicians seemed to actually have guts back then. Today, they all remind me of the cowardly lion from the wizard of oz, with the chest thumping for no-brainer decisions (saddam/OBL).

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