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 The Government Center: Disability History

Understanding Advocacy

When others didn’t listen, people with disabilities held protests, used laws, and created new laws to end discrimination against people with disabilities. For example, in 1983 a group called ADAPT (America’s Disabled for Attendant Programs Today) began its campaign to make public buses in Denver, Colorado wheelchair accessible. Some of the things the group did to bring attention to this issue included parking their wheelchairs in front of buses and refusing to move, or chaining their wheelchairs to buses so the bus couldn’t move. As a result, the police were often called to protests organized by ADAPT, and they commonly cut away the chains, arrested the protestors, and took them to jail. Using these tactics, however, ADAPT was successful in making public transit accessible to all people in Denver and other places. The group now is working to help people with disabilities move out of nursing homes, and continues to work on this by holding demonstrations. People with disabilities gather to show their frustration about the way things are and what they feel needs to be changed and are commonly arrested for doing so.

Justin Dart was a national leader and activist in the disability movement who spent his life working to help policymakers in Washington, DC understand the needs of people with disabilities. Justin often spoke to members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives to help them understand the needs of people with disabilities. He was also very active and interested in helping young people with disabilities learn about their rights. The federal laws and policies that Justin Dart worked on have changed the lives of all people with disabilities who live in the U.S. Mr. Dart was regarded as one of the fathers of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the landmark 1990 civil rights law for the disabled. In 1998, Justin Dart was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton. Justin Dart died on June 22, 2002 at the age of 71.

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Last updated on June 30, 2015

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