Leo’s Letter: The Americans With Disabilities Act, 29 Years Later

Friday, July 26 marks the 29th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by President George H. W. Bush. Prior to the ADA’s passage, Congress established a task force chaired by Justin Dart and co-chaired by Dr. Elizabeth Boggs of The Arc.

In 1988, the task force released a report with four preliminary recommendations to Congress:

  • Move quickly to enact an effective Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Provide leadership to ensure that people with disabilities have roles with significant responsibility (e.g., employment)
  • Continue to work toward a full spectrum of effective services and support systems
  • Ensure the effective implementation and enforcement of rights and services legislation (education, health care specifically cited)

The recommendations challenged Congress and our nation in a way that has been rarely matched. Congress did act quickly and in a bi-partisan manner, passing the bill in a relatively short period of time. Yet we continued to face barriers almost immediately as the ADA was challenged in the U. S. Supreme Court, resulting in the Olmstead decision.

Today, revisionists claim that the ADA is only about personal or societal prejudice and bias. In other words, there should be no concrete actions to change our educational settings, health care systems, and public accommodations. There has been progress, though, as reflected in transportation systems, education, and health settings – but these are incomplete, sometimes related to funding but often related to a lack of advocacy.

For example, individuals with intellectual disabilities could greatly benefit from smart technology in public transportation. Smart phones help, but more can be done to address this need. And too many school systems make families fight for the right educational plans. This means many students lose out on preparation for adult life if their parents don’t have the means or time to advocate.

Though the above recommendations may have been made over 30 years ago in 1988, the spirit and commitment reflected within them are no less vital today.

Happy 29th anniversary to the Americans with Disabilities Act, and here’s to a stronger, more inclusive future.





Leo V. Sarkissian
Executive Director

This editorial was originally published in the MetroWest Daily News on July 22, 2019.


  1. Deborah Gregorio-Cruz

    There needs to be Concrete changes made in our educational system as soon as possible. The children are the ones who are suffering and still being denied an appropriate education for their specific needs. The ADA is a wonderful foundation or starting point that needs to be modified and expanded to truly make change happen moving forward. I would be happy to stand as an advocate and speak out. Just guide and direct me. I can provide plenty of first hand examples from my own experience with the public school system through the years. My son has multiple disabilities and has not received an education to date. He is 11 years and still cannot read or write because he was denied an appropriate education placement that would suit his needs. It cost me thousands to have outside testing completed to finally get him placed. Attorney fees as well. Families Struggle enough and do not have the knowledge or energy to fight the way they are made to and certainly not the funds. Something must be done as soon as possible. Again, I am happy to take action with guidance and direction as to how to go about making change happen.

  2. I am eternally grateful to all who advocate for individuals with disabilities. I advocate strenuously for my son who has autism and id but I lack the will and expertise to advocate when issues are politically charged. We all have different gifts. I do what I can. Thank you for doing what you do so well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *