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Steny H.
Democrat MD 5

About Rep. Steny
  • Ada’s 25Th Anniversary

    by Representative Steny H. Hoyer

    Posted on 2015-07-29

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    Read More about Ada's 25Th Anniversary

    HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

    First, let me mention the extraordinary respect I have for the gentleman from Rhode Island (Mr. Langevin).

    I had the honor of sponsoring the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1989 and 1990. We passed it in 1990, and it was signed by then- President George H.W. Bush. It was called the Americans with Disabilities Act, Mr. Speaker, but in many ways it should have been called the Americans with Abilities Act. It should have been called that because its intent was to focus on what people could do, what people would do, what people wanted to do.

    Mr. Langevin is a perfect example of an extraordinary person with great ability who has a wheelchair. He has a wheelchair because he has a mobility impairment that others of us don't have. But as we have seen in serving with our colleague Jim Langevin from Rhode Island, he is extraordinarily able and he represents his constituency with great energy, with great intellect, and with great integrity. So I am pleased to join him in this Special Order.

    We had introduced a resolution, but it is not the practice of the House to bring commemorative resolutions to the floor. So we do this Special Order in addition to what we would have hoped would have been the passage of a resolution, but I understand that is the practice.

    The Senate did in fact pass a resolution, sponsored by Orrin Hatch, Patricia Murray from Washington State, and Lamar Alexander, commemorating 25 years of progress on the inclusion of those with a challenge that others might not have in our society, all that our society offers and the opportunities that it offers.

    Mr. Speaker, I have spoken on numerous occasions over this last week commemorating the ADA, and I have mentioned a number of names. I would like to do that on the floor of this House, because they were people who were absolutely critical. It is not a comprehensive list. It is, however, a list of people with whom I worked very closely for well over a year on the passage of the ADA.

    First, I would like to mention President George H.W. Bush. This issue was not a partisan issue. President Bush was a Republican; I was a Democrat--and still am. I worked with an extraordinary Republican Member of the House. His name was Steve Bartlett. He was from Texas. He left the House and became mayor of Dallas. He is now still in Washington, working, and we are partners. Every time something happens with respect to the ADA, Steve Bartlett and I work together on it.

    Dave Capozzi and Tony Coelho. Tony Coelho, a Member of this body, was a person perceived with the disease of epilepsy, but he is one of the most able people that any of us know. Tony Coelho, along with Lowell Weicker, were the original two sponsors of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Justin Dart. In 1983, Justin Dart visited every State in the Union in his wheelchair, calling attention to State legislatures, Governors, and others of the importance of ensuring the accessibility of places of opportunity for those with disabilities. Yoshiko Dart, his wife, was with him every step of the way and was with us as we worked for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    And then we have an extraordinary legislator--one of the best legislators that I have served with, Mr. Speaker--Bob Dole, a Republican from Kansas, majority and minority leader of the United States Senate. Mr. Speaker, when he came to the Senate of the United States, his first speech was about including those with disabilities. He observed that he was an involuntary member of those with disabilities as a result of his extraordinary war wounds in Italy in World War II.

    We have Chai Feldblum, who is now on the EEOC and a professor at Georgetown Law School. She was counsel to myself and Steve Bartlett as we considered the complex issues and tried to make sure that ADA could be implemented by all in a way that was affordable and reasonable for them.

    We then have Lex Frieden, who is the executive director of the National Council on Disabilities, who worked so closely with us. Also, Boyden Gray, counsel to George Bush, who was a critical ally in this effort.

    Then we have a giant in this effort, Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa, who, after Lowell Weicker left, was the principal sponsor of the ADA and fought hard and effectively on its behalf.

    Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy. Senator Kennedy and Senator Hatch were partners in so many different things, but on this they were aligned and made this bipartisan effort a very successful one.

    Also, Arlene Mayerson; Paul Marchand; former Congressman and now Senator Ed Markey; Senator John McCain; Congressman Norman Mineta; Ralph Neas; Katie Neas; Carolyn Osolinik; Becky Ogle; Lee Page; Liz Savage; Bobby Silverstein. Like Melissa Schulman who was my chief staffer as we considered the Americans with Disabilities Act, Bobby Silverstein was Tom Harkin's chief staffer.

    Jim Sensenbrenner, our colleague today. Congressman Sensenbrenner was so critical, along with his wife, Cheryl Sensenbrenner, who, herself, suffered from a disability and showed such courage in encouraging all of us to support the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    I mentioned Lowell Weicker. Lowell Weicker was a Senator from Connecticut and then Governor of Connecticut; Bob Williams, who was an extraordinary individual who worked so hard; John Wodatch; and last, but certainly not least, Patricia Wright.

    There were literally, Mr. Speaker, thousands of others, many of whom will not be known but who came here to the Congress of the United States, wrote their Members, called them up, and came to town meetings and forums on behalf of those with disabilities.

    The Americans with Disabilities Act is now used as a sample and has been adopted in some 50 countries throughout the world, perhaps more. There is a disabilities rights convention, which is pending. Only three countries in the world have not signed on to that convention. Unfortunately, we are one. I would hope that the Senate would do that in this Congress. Senator Bob Dole has been an extraordinary proponent of that convention.

    So, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join my friend, James Langevin, who has been a beneficiary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the reasonable accommodations that we ask to be [[Page H5656]] effected so that Jim Langevin could get through the door, could get on the elevator, could get into this Chamber. And, Mr. Speaker, there is a lift on the rostrum on which you now sit so that James Langevin would be able to preside, if that were in order. In fact, he has been up there and has presided. That is called a reasonable accommodation. And because of those reasonable accommodations, this Congress, his State, and our country have been advantaged.

    Mr. Speaker, I think when we end our careers, most of us who were involved in the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act will look back on the adoption of it overwhelmingly by this Congress in a bipartisan fashion and the signing of that act by President George Bush as one of our most important contributions and achievements during our service in the Congress of the United States.

    I thank Mr. Langevin for his extraordinary example for all those in our country to look at the abilities, not the disabilities.

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