Celebration honors 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Community members joined together Saturday to celebrate the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Tian Liu

People gather during the 29th Celebration of the Americans of Disabilities Act at Ped Mall in Iowa City on July 27, 2019. (Tian Liu/The Daily Iowan)

Seton Warren, News Reporter

On July 26, 1990, then-President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law, which prohibits acts of discrimination against those with disabilities. Since then, there has been a significant shift in the treatment of people who suffer disables.

A celebration of the 29th anniversary of the ADA was held on the Pedestrian Mall on July 27. Advocates had planned the event since 1993.

The event was not only a celebration of the ADA, it also brought together advocates for those with disabilities from throughout the Iowa City area to acknowledge the hard work they’ve done and successes they’ve had in the past year.

“We’re recognizing that we’re not alone in the struggles that we’re working on,” said Kaydee Ecker, president-elect of UI Students for Disability Advocacy and Awareness.

The celebration stressed the importance of identity and visibility for those with disabilities.

“Essentially, the ADA celebration is a party,” said Erin Kay, a walk manager at the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “We’re celebrating our identity. We’re not hiding from it.”

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This year’s theme was “Disability is Diversity.”

“Every single time there is an event in Iowa City and it includes people from all walks of life, from every minority group, disabled people are always left out of the conversation,” Kay said, “That’s wrong, because we need to be part of the conversation.”

Younger generations of advocates were born after the ADA passed.

Keith Ruff, one of the people who helped organize the event, believes that it is important for younger generations to have an idea of what life was like before the ADA.

“The group of people right now were born right after ADA,” Ruff said, “They’re showing much more independence. I was born well before ADA. I’ve seen both sides of the coin. Before ADA, there was very demeaning language.”

Ecker is of the younger generation born after ADA was passed.

“It’s important to recognize what landmark legislation this was, as somebody who wasn’t even born when ADA was passed,” Ecker said. “It definitely is something that people in my generation and the generation after me really need to remember where we’ve come from and where people before us have come from have done to get us where we are today.”

Although the U.S. has come a long way in the 29 years since the enactment of the ADA, there is a long way to go when it comes to the treatment of those with disabilities, Ecker said.

“Even though it’s a different time, it really is the same trouble,” Ecker said. “There’s still the same vein of able-ism, still the same threads of oppression that we’re dealing with. Knowing that people have dealt with it before and have triumphed is very important.”