Speech ● Human and Civil Rights
For Immediate Release: 
July 24, 2020
Contact Info: 
Mariel Saez 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in recognition of the 30th anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act.  Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery and a link to the video.
 

Click here to watch the video.
 
“Madam Speaker, I rise to mark the thirtieth anniversary on Sunday of the Americans with Disabilities Act being signed into law. I was proud to be the lead sponsor of that legislation in the House.

“The ADA is an example of what we can do together in a bipartisan way to protect equal rights and help Americans access opportunities to get ahead. It was a landmark piece of civil rights legislation, which passed the House and Senate with strong, bipartisan support and was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. And when the Supreme Court ruled a narrow interpretation of the law that was overly limiting, Democrats and Republicans came together again to pass the ADA Amendments Act in 2008 to restore its original intent and expand on its protections. The ADA hasn’t just led to the construction of accessible spaces; it has also helped change America’s perceptions of those with disabilities. And it brought dignity and recognition to millions who previously were excluded and thought to be lesser-than because of their disabilities.

“Over the past thirty years, the ADA has made it possible for so many of our fellow citizens to participate in the workforce, in government, and in every area of our society in ways they were previously unable without great difficulty. The law breathed new life into the words of our Declaration of Independence – that all are ‘created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Indeed, the ADA was, in so many ways, a declaration of independence for the millions of Americans living with disabilities, yearning not only to be seen and accepted but to be treated equally as they pursue happiness and the American dream. And it set a global standard, with its provisions adopted by other countries around the world.

“As we celebrate this anniversary, let us remember that Americans with disabilities still face many hurdles in employment, education, access to health care, accessible technology, and the ability to live independently. I hope our country will use this moment not only to reflect on the enormous difference we have made for people with disabilities but also to rededicate ourselves to the task of continuing that work. I want to take a moment to thank a number of my colleagues and former colleagues on both sides of the aisle who were instrumental in getting the ADA passed and signed into law.

“Among them are Tony Coelho, Tom Harkin, Bob Dole, Ted Kennedy Jr., David Durenberger – as well as Ham Fish, Ted Kennedy, Major Owens, and Silvio Conte, who are no longer with us. And, of course, the late president George H.W. Bush. And I want to thank the many advocates who were instrumental in building grassroots support for the ADA, as well as the congressional and white house staff who worked long hours and late nights to produce text and build consensus toward passage. I want to mention in particular Chai Feldblum, former lead attorney for the ACLU at the time and later an Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner, as well as former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray under President Bush.

“I also want to thank Melissa Shulman who served on my staff and was critical to getting this law enacted. And I want to thank Reps. Jim Langevin and Don Young, who today serve as Co-Chairs of the Congressional Disability Caucus. Rep. Young, of course was also involved in the passage of the law. There are too many others to name here, individuals who gave their time, energy, and talents to making the ADA possible. I am proud to be joining my friend from Rhode Island, Rep. Langevin, in introducing a resolution today to recognize the importance of the ADA., celebrate the advancement of inclusion, and recognize the barriers that still remain for people with disabilities.

“I hope all of my colleagues will join in supporting that resolution and in celebrating this anniversary – as well in our shared commitment to further progress in the march for the rights, dignity, and full equality of those with disabilities.”