Makers of the Americans with Disabilities Act: In the making


Bob Dole played a pivotal role in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landmark federal law that has fundamentally changed the way in which the country looks at individuals who are disabled.

When Mr. Dole returned to the Senate in January 1995, less than two months after having been critically injured by a gunshot at an Independence Day party in his Kansas hometown, he made it his mission to push through the sweeping law, telling colleagues that they should make the ADA “a priority.”

And so they did. In 1995, Mr. Dole worked with the late Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, to quickly pass the ADA, and Republicans and Democrats alike often pointed to his work as the impetus for their own involvement.

“In our judgement, he’s played a linchpin role,” said Jeanne Quinn, the head of the Coalition on Disability Rights at OMB Watch, a Washington watchdog group that focuses on legislation passed by Congress. “He was a very affable and warm person who always wanted to be bipartisan. And so that was always a struggle.”

One of the most visible of the ADA’s features is the requirement that people in wheelchairs be allowed into restaurants, movie theaters and other restaurants that serve food, and that they be accommodated at hotels, sports stadiums and other facilities for long-term housing.

The law expanded the definition of disability, granting certain disability rights to people such as the blind, deaf and those with certain genetic diseases. The law also required the federal government to develop certain changes, such as greater access to federal buildings and to its own websites.

Since the law’s passage, more than 30,000 restaurants have been signed up as ADA restaurants, and federal buildings have installed signs that are not as intrusive as they once were.

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