In a small windowless conference room at the Center for People with Disabilities on Range Street in Boulder, a small, vibrant group of disability rights activists celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. (More…) A self-proclaimed troubadour of the disability rights movement sang of the struggles and evolution of disability rights in this country, and the heartbreak and victory inherent in civil rights activism. “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” and Power to Prevail” stirred dormant revolutionary souls. This troubadour was no Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger. He was an aging man with eyeglasses covering his sightless eyes, sitting in a wheelchair, with a luminous glow and a heart still strong. He led us all in songs of freedom.
Outside parked along the back street curb of this small, colorless industrial neighborhood was the 35 foot “Road to Freedom Bus” brilliantly decaled with America’s stars and stripes and a bold “separate is never equal” message. The bus is the icon and central connection of the national Legacy Tour, an effort of The ADA Legacy Project’s year-long celebration of the silver anniversary of the ADA. The bus is a platform for young emerging leaders communicating with older leaders, for allies and artists, organizations, legislators and governors. Through touring the nation, it is hoped that the young outspoken leaders who will be leading the disability nation over the next quarter century will be found.
This Legacy Bus Tour passed through Boulder County on March 12 largely unnoticed by local media, elected officials or other prominent community leadership.
The ADA, signed into law by President George H. W. Bush on July 26, 1990, after decades of campaigning and lobbying by disability rights activists, was a long overdue declaration of equality for people with disabilities, promising equal opportunity, independence, and full participation in American society. Passage of the ADA reflects deeply held American ideals that treasure the contributions that individuals can make when free from arbitrary, unjust, or outmoded societal attitudes and practices that prevent the realization of their potential.
The recent re-enactment commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the civil rights march on Selma was led by President Obama and received national and local attention. This anniversary event was meant, in part, to re-ignite activism in the young people of America, the most diverse and educated generation in the country’s history, and to convey that the rights of many people in this country-those of color, disability, or old-still need advocacy and protection.
The broad promise of the ADA will only be reached if we remain committed to continuing our efforts to fully implement the ADA.
The Legacy Bus Tour continues its journey through several more states, ending at the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC- a building inaccessible to people with disabilities not too many years ago on July 26, the anniversary date the ADA was signed.
As you plan your family vacations this summer, look for locations where the Legacy Bus Tour stops on www.adalegacy.com. Take your children to see it. Let them hear the troubadour of a movement. Give them the sense of idealism and responsibility others have shown on their behalf for advocating for equal rights and an inclusive community.
Director of Communications
Via Mobility Services
2855 63rd Street, Boulder, CO
Via is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting independence and self-sufficiency for people with limited mobility by providing caring, customer-focused transportation options. Via was founded over 35 years ago during a period of steadfast activism to ensure an inclusive community for the growing populations of older adults and people with disabilities in the county. www.viacolorado.org
This appeared as a guest commentary in the Daily Camera on April 1, 2015, with the link to the digital version at the end of the article.