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Episode 70 Resources: Celebration of the ADA Anniversary – A Conversation with Senator Tom Harkin

Speakers: Tom Harkin, American politician, attorney and author and former United States Senator (1985 to 2015), Harkin Institute at Drake University
Peter Blanck – University Professor and Chairman, Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University
Original Air Date: July 3, 2019


The Honorable Tom Harkin – former Senator and Congressman, veteran, author, attorney, and chief sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), will be the featured guest on the July 3, 2019 broadcast of the ADA Live!, a podcast produced by the Syracuse University Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) |  Southeast ADA Center. University Professor Peter Blanck, Chairman of BBI, will interview Senator Harkin in celebration of the 29th anniversary of this historic civil rights legislation.

Considered the “Emancipation Proclamation for people with disabilities,” the ADA changed the landscape of America by prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in all aspects of public life, including employment, schools, transportation, local government programs, and places of public accommodation. To preserve the intent of the ADA after court rulings weakened its standards, Harkin and former Senator Orrin Hatch introduced the ADA Amendments Act to ensure continuing protections from discrimination for all Americans with disabilities. It was signed into law in 2008.
In the podcast, Harkin will discuss how the ADA legislation came about, its impact over the last 29 years, and the future of civil rights protections for the more than 60 million people with disabilities living in the United States.

Featured Organization: 
Harkin Institute at Drake University

ADA Live! Archives

Audio: SoundCloud ADA Live! Episode 70: Celebration of the ADA Anniversary – A Conversation with Senator Tom Harkin
ADA Live! Celebration of the ADA Anniversary – A Conversation with Senator Tom Harkin

Resources to Celebrate the ADA Anniversary

  • ADA Anniversary Toolkit
    Throughout the year, celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the ADA Anniversary (July 26) in your workplaces, schools and communities. Learn about the history of the ADA, the Olmstead court decision, and sign the ADA Pledge.
    Web: Web:
  • ADA Anniversary Resource Page
    Source: ADA National Network
  • ADA Signing Ceremony – July 26, 1990 – by President George H.W. Bush
    [22 min. – captioned, audio described]

    Documents the speech given by President George H. W. Bush when he signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law on July 26, 1990 on the south lawn of the White House.
    Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division
  • Americans with Disabilities Act [YouTube, 6:30 min.]
    Highlights of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, and the progress made through implementation of the ADA by bringing down barriers and providing access to opportunities, as well as civil rights protection, for employment and all types of activities to individuals with disabilities. Also: ADA Video

    Source: ADA National Network

  • Remembering George H.W. Bush, A Champion For People With Disabilities (Interview)
    Disability rights advocate and educator Lex Frieden talks about the legacy of former President George H.W. Bush, who died on November 30, 2018, at the age of 94.
    Source: National Public Radio (NPR)
  • Senator Robert Dole’s Role in the History of the ADA
    As a wounded World War II veteran who never fully regained use of his right arm, Senator Bob Dole was an advocate for people with disabilities throughout his career and a major supporter of the ADA.
    Source: Robert and Elizabeth Dole Archive and Special Collections, University of Kansas

Senator Harkin’s Life and Work

  • Harkin Institute at Drake University
    The Institute is a center for non-partisan research, learning, and outreach to promote understanding of the policy issues to which Senator Tom Harkin devoted his career – labor and employment, people with disabilities, wellness and nutrition, and retirement security.
  • Harkin Summit
    At the annual Harkin International Disability Employment Summit, representatives from business, disability advocacy, government, education, foundations, and nongovernmental organizations bring their lessons from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, and the Americas to identify and create strategies to increase the employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
  • Iowa School for the Deaf
    Senator Harkin’s brother Frank graduated from the Iowa School for the Deaf.
  • Historical Quote: “The arc of history is long and it bends toward justice.”
    Senator Harkin spoke about how this quote inspires him.
    Source: Quote Investigator
  • Senator Harkin and the History of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
    Learn about the roles Senator Harkin and others played in the history of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).
  • National Captioning Institute
    Senator Harkin talked about the development of NCI, which delivers effective captioning services and encourages, develops and funds the continuing development of captioning, subtitling and other media access services for the benefit of people who need additional access to auditory and visual information.
    History of Closed Captioning

Disability Rights Issues, Laws and Court Decisions

  • The ADA Amendments Act of 2008: Frequently Asked Questions
    Source: Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP)
  • ADA Amendments Act: Final Rule
    Source: U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)
  • Special Education: A Brief History
    Source: Sutori
  • A 25 Year History of the IDEA
    Congress enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975 to support states and localities in protecting the rights of, meeting the individual needs of, and improving access to education for children and youth with disabilities and their families. This law became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), after it was amended in 1997.
    Source: US Department of Education
  • Sutton v. United Air Lines
    A 1998 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court under Title I (Employment) of the ADA.
    Source: Oyez
  • Defining Disability in the Aftermath of Sutton
    Source: Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)
    Web: /
  • End Medicaid’s Institutional Bias For Long-Term Care (Opinion)
    Source: Forbes
    ADAPT is a national grass-roots community that organizes disability rights activists to engage in nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, to assure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom.
  • Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA)
    This law is designed to strengthen and improve our nation’s public workforce system and help get Americans, including youth, people with disabilities, and others with significant barriers to employment, into high-quality jobs and careers and help employers hire and retain skilled workers.
    Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration (ETA)
  • Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE)
    APSE is the only national, non-profit membership organization dedicated to Employment First, a vision that all people with disabilities have a right to competitive employment in an inclusive workforce. They are committed to Real Jobs for Real Pay for All People with Disabilities.