Celebrating Progress

Gary and Sharon Byrkett at 10th ADA Celebration
Gary and Sharon Byrkett in 2000

On May 22, 1990, the House of Representatives voted in favor of the bill that became the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was just one day later when ADA advocates held a victory rally at Monument Circle in Indianapolis.

The National Council on Disability conducted town meetings in Indiana and all other states during 1995, to assess the success of the ADA's implementation. Many Hoosiers with disabilities offered testimony about improvements in their lives brought by the five-year-old civil rights law.

On July 26, 2000, Hoosiers with disabilities and their allies met in the Indianapolis Artsgarden to celebrate the ADA's 10-year anniversary. The National Council on Disability had issued its report, Promises to Keep. “In the decade after its enactment, the Americans with Disabilities Act has begun to transform the social fabric of our nation," states the report. "It has brought the principle of disability civil rights into the mainstream of public policy." This law “has fundamentally affected the way Americans perceive disability.”

ADA-Indiana has sponsored regular anniversary events, some coinciding with Indiana bus stops on the national “Road to Freedom” tours. Indiana advocates have gathered to applaud significant and hard-won gains for people with disabilities, identifying and expressing appreciation towards individuals who have made those advances a reality.

Hoosier celebrations have also been occasions to look at the work ahead. Advocates re-energize one another in the face of attempts to weaken the ADA. A few years before he died, Justin Dart spoke of the possibility that a changed political climate could bring about the demise of “the greatest civil rights law in history,” as he described it. “It's conceivable that we could lose it and a lot of other things, or get it so minimized that it would be considered near to meaningless.” Dart requested that any event commemorating his own passing be both a celebration and a recommitment to “the revolution of empowerment.” He would likely wish that we observe future ADA milestones in the same way.

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Celebrating Progress