Organizing for the Cause
“The atmosphere leading up to the passage of the ADA was electrifying. There was so much energy and excitement because we knew we were on the brink of writing a new chapter of American history,” says Suellen Jackson-Boner. Suellen was executive director of the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities (GCPD) during that time. As a member of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, GCPD chairperson Costa Miller worked with Justin Dart Jr., the committee’s chair. As a result, it was the GCPD that organized the well-attended statewide hearings bringing Dart to Indiana.
In the late 1980s, Justin Dart attended Congressional forums in every state. He recalled of the forums, “Anybody could come and say anything for five minutes.” “Sometimes we sat there until 9 o'clock at night… nobody ever got turned away.” The testimony of Hoosiers with disabilities was heard in Washington, D.C. “We kept up a constant barrage of reports to Congress about what we were doing and what we were hearing and how many people were coming,” Dart recounts. He would prove to be a pivotal figure in the Americans with Disabilities Act's passage.
Working with John-Jay Steinhardt (Indiana Protection & Advocacy Services) other disability advocates, the GCPD’s Christine Dahlberg digested relevant research and examined outcomes from the hearings she had organized. Together, they wrote updates to send to advocates statewide. “We would send the faxes (printed material transmitted by phone) out in groups of 50 at a time. It was time-consuming to prepare the documents and send the faxes, but it worked,” says Christine. ADA activists describe licking a lot of postage stamps, stuffing numerous envelopes, and getting sore ears from keeping the phone receiver pressed to their heads.
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Christine Dahlberg and Ric Edwards - Spreading the Word About the ADA
“We actually heard from a number of different people in a lot of different communities,” explains Ric Edwards of the town meetings held when Justin Dart visited Indiana. …