The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which President George H.W. Bush signed into law in 1990, turns 25 on July 26th. Today, most Americans take things such as ramps, wheelchair lifts on city buses or designated parking spaces for granted. Some people might not know that many of these improvements came about directly as a result of this groundbreaking civil rights law.
One person who can speak from the heart about the ADA is Tom Ridge, the First U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and current chairman of National Organization on Disability (NOD). Ridge, who has a severe hearing loss from his Army service in the Vietnam War, was in elementary school when he learned his first lesson about disabilities. His friend Betty, an energetic and intelligent student, wore heavy braces on her legs as a result of contracting polio.
“Frankly, we didn’t see the braces or the crutches,” says Ridge. “We saw the person. She was just one of us.”