Thursday, July 22, 2010

The ADA: 20 Years – My Hero

- By Keith Hosey -

“I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hello again readers. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will be twenty years old July 26th. I’ve been spending quite a bit of time thinking about this lately. This is our second installment in the Center’s ADA series. I’m at the National Council for Independent Living and it’s a great atmosphere for re-charging your advocacy batteries.

I want to tell you about one of my heroes. There are many advocates who worked towards disability rights. There was Ed Roberts, Justin Dart, Jr., and tons more. I want to tell you about a guy I’ve had the pleasure to meet, hear and be inspired by. The good news: he’s agreed to be part of our ADA series and already has a documentary about him.

If you’ve ever been on an accessible bus in Denver, Chicago, Louisville or a handful of other places, you can thank Arthur Campbell, Jr. for it. He stopped busses in those places to demand access, even before the ADA was law. This guy’s been arrested in more states fighting for your rights than I’ve probably visited. Humble? Well, not really, but he’s got a great sense of humor. Arthur was a member of a group arrested in the nation’s capitol building fighting for the rights of people with disabilities. That’s history in my opinion.

"Where would the blacks be if that poor, tired lady hadn't decided to fight back and not give up her seat on the bus?" asks Campbell. "It takes someone to make a stand, someone to say, 'I've had enough.' In our case, we can't even get on the bus, let alone ride in the back." Crashing their wheelchairs through police lines and manacling themselves to buses in acts of civil disobedience, Campbell and his fellow activists helped dramatize the need for access for people with disabilities. In one of the film's most stirring sequences, Campbell participates in a Washington, D.C. protest rally in which 70 disabled activists laboriously drag themselves up the steps of our nation's Capitol. Their efforts helped spur the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.” – Walter Brock, Documentary Film Maker – If I Can’t Do It

Arthur inspires me, he never stops. He fought for the ADA, then he saw the ADA signed in person. He is a part of American history and I am honored to know him.

Who inspires you?

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