President George H.W. Bush and the expansion of opportunity for people with disabilities
December 7, 2018
Senator Bob Dole, rising with assistance from his
Dole was among mourners who had come to the US Capitol rotunda to pay respects to the former president on the second day of his lying in state. Rivals for the Republican nomination for president in 1988, Dole and Bush were bound together by their experiences serving in World War II, their devotion to party, and their loyalty to country. They were also allies in the fight to expand opportunity for people with disabilities.
On April 14, 1969, Bob Dole delivered his first speech on the Senate floor, calling for public and private sector commitments to improve the lives of people with disabilities. He noted, “We have a basic commitment in our nation to assure every person has adequate opportunity to develop to his fullest capacity.”
As vice president, George H.W. Bush took up this cause. Later, as president, he signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down,” President Bush declared in remarks before signing the ADA July 26, 1990, at a ceremony attended by some 3,000 people on the South Lawn of the White House.
The ADA protects people with disabilities from discrimination and enables them to participate fully in the workforce and their communities. Its protections extend to five key areas: employment, state
Dick Thornburgh, who served as U.S. Attorney General while Bush was president, said he took pride in helping Bush ensure the ADA became law. “It was my privilege to act as his point man on the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the most important piece of civil rights legislation of the last
“The President’s personal commitment to guaranteeing equal opportunity for children and adults with disabilities reflected his compassion and dedication to the rule of law.”
“President Bush made history when he called for a disability civil rights law at the Republican convention in 1988, and when he signed the ADA two years later,” noted Andy Imparato, executive director, Association of University Centers on Disabilities. “His understated leadership, willingness to work with bipartisan Congressional
Twenty-eight years after the ADA, Americans with disabilities continue to face unemployment and poverty rates twice the national average and discrimination in many areas including employment, transportation
Many churches and other houses of worship remain inaccessible, or only partially accessible, to people with disabilities. Beyond physical accessibility, changes in attitude remain necessary for churches to become communities of belonging that welcome the gifts, talents and abilities of people with disabilities.
Beyond physical accessibility, changes in attitude remain necessary for churches to become communities of belonging that welcome the gifts, talents
Ensuring people with disabilities have the same access to opportunity and enjoy the same civil rights protections as people without disabilities is a moral imperative for our society. Ensuring they enjoy the same opportunity to practice their faith in the community of faith is an ethical and evangelical imperative for the church. Efforts to make further advances on both fronts is a work worthy of the legacy of President George H.W. Bush.
Curtis Ramsey-Lucas is editor of The Christian Citizen, a publication of American Baptist Home Mission Societies
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