President George H.W. Bush signs into law the ADAIn recognition of Presidents Day, we discuss President George H.W. Bush’s role in passing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and why the ADA was important to him.

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Celebrating Presidents Day: President George H.W. Bush and the ADA

Feb 14, 2019

President George H.W. Bush passes into law the ADA"Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down."

These are the words spoken by President Bush on July 26, 1990, when he signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In the nearly 30 years since that law was passed, the lives of millions of Americans with disabilities have been changed. The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life — including jobs, schools, transportation and all public or private places that are open to the general public; and it's viewed by many as President Bush's most enduring legacy. 

For the president, the declaration of equality for people with disabilities was more than good politics; it was personal. He had lost a child to leukemia and had another child with a learning disability. He had also heard the voices of thousands of people — parents of children with disabilities, advocates, legislators and academics — who expressed the need for equal treatment.

"Together, we must remove the physical barriers we have created and the social barriers that we have accepted. For ours will never be a truly prosperous nation until all within it prosper."

Because of the ADA, our physical environment is changed significantly from that of 1990 and before. We have ramps, curb cuts, more accessible parking, elevators at train stations, accessible bathroom stalls, and wider entrances and hallways.

But it's not just people who have mobility-related disabilities that must be accommodated; it's also people who are deaf or hard of hearing, people who are blind, and people who have cognitive or intellectual disabilities. So, we also have experienced changes that may be less obvious, such as job accommodations in hiring and employment, closed captioning, specialized equipment, interpreters and accessible technology.

Some of you may remember that, at age 90, President Bush jumped out of an airplane to show how fit he was. But you may also remember that when he came back to earth in front of the cameras, he returned to his wheelchair. One story has it that as his staff rolled him up and down sidewalks and ramps, the president joked: "Those ramps and those sidewalks [curb cuts] are very convenient. Who thought of putting those there?" His signature did it.

About Ticket to Work

This Presidents Day, Social Security's Ticket to Work team recognizes the contributions of President George H.W. Bush and many others to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and want to work. The Ticket program is free and voluntary. It helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce.

Learn more

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

Learn more

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

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