Principle over Politics? The Domestic Policy of the George H. W. Bush Presidency

By Richard Himelfarb; Rosanna Perotti | Go to book overview

Discussant: Lucy Wong-Hernandez

I feel that after these great panelists have said so much about the ADA, maybe there is nothing else to say.

I was very involved with the movement, the disability rights movement, doing advocacy and lobbying for the ADA, from 1986 until it was finally passed and a little bit thereafter. I guess I could share with you the information and my own personal experiences while we were doing the necessary lobbying, and of course a lot of community-based, that type of advocacy that we were doing, to make people understand and, in a way, to educate people what the ADA was all about, and in order to avoid all that opposition that we were so fearful that we were going to have.

I hear different opinions here. Some panelists are saying there was real opposition; others maybe have the opinion that there wasn’t that much opposition. But in reality, we were fearful, too. We were the disability movement that was out there, knocking on doors—many doors were shut in our faces—we went to Washington on a monthly basis trying to get access to many delegates, many politicians there, and many times we were told, “Sorry, not today. We don’t want to talk about the ADA.” But we continued.

And just yesterday I was talking to Justin Dart about our experiences, and one particular activity came to mind, and that was almost in 1990,1 believe, in May, during one of the National Council and Independent Living Conferences, that we decided to mobilize the disability community that was in Washington at the time, and go out and do our regular march that we were doing throughout the nation. It was a day like today, very cold—somehow, something went wrong with the weather that day—rainy, and there we were, marching in Washington, wearing our plastic bags because we had no umbrellas, no raincoats, nothing, and it was like an ocean of people with disabilities—especially wheelchairs—marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. And it was late at night, also; it was about 7, 8 o’clock, getting dark, and we were holding candles, lit candles, because we were looking for our so-called points of light also. And somehow, the march was a success. We kept chanting throughout the streets, “Where is George? Where is George?” And finally, we got to the White House gate, and I don’t know what happened—what Mr. Gray did—that the next day, we were invited to come to the White House to have a breakfast meeting at the White House with the people that were working there in reference to the ADA. So that was a positive experience.

We had many other experiences that were not so positive, marching throughout the country and mobilizing people, working with different organizations. We even had different organizations representing certain specific disabilities, like Mr. Shapiro mentioned before—the blind, many others. We were fearful that we were going to break down somehow, and instead of coming across like a coalition of all persons with disabilities, we were going to divide because of differences of opin-

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