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The ADA Legacy Project

Moments in Disability History 22

Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of Americans with Disabilities

When the original version of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was introduced on April 29, 1988, most Americans were not fully aware of the need for comprehensive civil rights for people with disabilities. To gather and present on the extent and nature of such discrimination, in May 1988 United States Congressman Major Owens (NY) established a Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of Americans with Disabilities.

The Task Force was operated by 38 citizen volunteers with no public funding. 

Congressman Major Owens
Major Owens

Noted disabilities rights advocate Justin Dart, Jr., Chaired the Task Force. Mr. Dart was a leader of the international Disability Rights Movement and a renowned human rights activist. Mr. Dart  became widely recognized as the father of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Mr. Dart gave voice and recognition to the "tens of thousands of people who fought for the first civil rights law in the history of the world for people with disabilities."

Disability historian and songwriting activist Jeff Moyer combined his music with Justin's oratory on a CD Solidarity Forever! Justin speaks to all in the disability rights movement. The following is a link to Solidarity Forever!

Justin Dart and Yoshiko
Justin Dart and
Yoshiko Dart

Co-Chair of the Task Force was Elizabeth M. Boggs, Ph.D.  Dr. Boggs was a parent, nuclear physicist, chair of the then National Association for Retarded Children, and member of President John F. Kennedy's President's Panel on Mental Retardation. She was a pioneer of the American disability rights movement. 

The following links are videos that demonstrate the depth of her knowledge and experience in the field of disabilities. In the first video, Dr. Boggs describes the evolution of services for children as a result of the post-World War II "Baby Boom":

In the second video, Dr. Boggs describes the impact President John F. Kennedy had on public policy regarding people with disabilities:

Elizabeth Boggs

Task Force Coordinator was Lex Frieden. Mr. Frieden, is Professor of Biomedical Informatics and of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and an adjunct Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine. He also directs the ILRU–Independent Living Research Utilization Program at TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston. He was also appointed as the University of Texas System Chancellor's Health Fellow on Disability.

Mr. Frieden has served as chairperson of the National Council on Disability, president of Rehabilitation International and chairperson of the American Association of People with Disabilities. He is recognized as one of the founders of the independent living movement in the early 1970s and was instrumental in conceiving and drafting the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. 

Mr. Frieden bequeathed his personal collection of papers and memorabilia related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. "The donation makes the Library the owner of the largest stockpile of documents related to the ADA in the nation", said Robert Holzweiss, supervisory archivist at the Bush Library. More on Mr. Frieden and his donation can be found at the following link:

Lex Frieden
Lex Frieden

Don Galloway, Manager of Special and Demonstrated Programs for the Department of Housing and Community Development, was one of several federal government officials on the Task Force. Mr. Galloway was an example of the support and cooperation of the executive branch of government.
Ed Roberts Photo Gallery

Don Galloway
Don Galloway

Sandra S. Parrino, Chairperson of the National Council on Disability, provided tenacious leadership to create the ADA as a real civil rights law and for its introduction in 1988.

Sandra S. Parrino
Sandra S.

Other federal government officials participating on the Task Force included Dale Brown, Employment Advisor of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities; Philip B. Calkins, Ph.D., Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission; Susan Daniels, Ph.D., Associate Commissioner, Administration on Developmental Disabilities, Department of Health and Human Services; Gordon Mansfield, Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; and Michael Winter, President of the National Council of Independent Living;

Paul Marchand, Director of Governmental Affairs, Association for Retarded Citizens (now known as the Arc), was a leading Washington lobbyist for independence-oriented services and the civil rights of people with disabilities.  Paul was an advocate for inclusion in the community and self-advocacy beyond the ADA as described in this link:

Dale Brown
Philip B. Calkins, Ph.D
Philip B.
Calkins, Ph.D
Susan Daniels, Ph.D.
Daniels, Ph.D.
Gordon Mansfield
Michael Winter
Paul Marchand

Ed Roberts, President of the World Institute on Disability and widely regarded as the "father of independent living". Ed was an early pioneer of the American disability rights movement. Extensive coverage of Ed's influence on the disability rights and independent living before, during and after passage of the ADA can be found at:

Patrisha Wright, Director of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund served as chief of the negotiating team representing Americans with disabilities throughout the ADA legislative process. Justin Dart called her "one of the great Congressional negotiators of American history."

Frank Bowe, Ph.D., Professor of Rehabilitation Counseling at the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation at Hofstra University, and regarded as father of modern disability policy;

Ed Roberts
Ed Roberts
Patrisha Wright
Frank Bowe, Ph.D.
Bowe, Ph.D.
Elmer Bartels
Rev. Wade Blank
Rev. Wade
Marca Bristo
David Capozzi

Other Task Force members included Elmer Bartels, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission; the Rev. Wade Blank, Director and co-founder of the Atlantis Community and of American Disabled for Accessible Public Transportation (now known as ADAPT); David Bodenstein, advocate for people with AIDS; Marca Bristo, Founder and President of Access Living; David Capozzi, disability rights attorney; Julie Clay, MPH, Project Manager of the Prevention of Secondary Disability; James DeJong, Director of Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois; Eliot Dober, Vice President and representing the National Association of Protection and Advocacy (now known as the National Disability Rights Network); Charles Estes, Executive Director, National Association of the Deaf; Keith Gann, Editor of Persons with AIDS; James Havel, advocate for the rights of persons with mental illness; I. King Jordan, Ph.D., President of Gallaudet University; Connie Martinez, Council member of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities; Celane McWhorter, Director of Governmental Relations, The Association of Persons with Severe Handicaps (a.k.a. TASH); Oral Miller, Executive Director of the American Council of the Blind; Gary Olsen, a strong advocate for the rights of persons with hearing impairments; Mary Jane Owen, Director of Disability Focus, Inc.; Joseph Rogers, President of National Mental Health Consumer Self Help Clearing House; Liz Savage, disability rights attorney; William A. Spencer, M.D., Founder and President Emeritus, the Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research; Marilyn Price Spivack, Founder and Executive Director, National Head Injury Foundation, Inc.; Ann Vinup, Chairperson of Legislative Services Committee, Association for Children and Adults with Learning Disabilities; Sylvia Walker, Ed.D., Director of Center for Study of Handicapped Children and Youth at Howard University; and Tony Young, Chairperson of the Board, Fairfax Opportunities Unlimited.

Julie Clay, MPH
Clay, MPH
James DeJong
Eliot Dober
Charles Estes
I. King Jordan, Ph.D
I. King
Jordan, Ph.D
Connie Martinez
Celane McWhorter
Oral Miller
Gary Olsen
Mary Jane Owen
Mary Jane
Joseph Rogers
Liz Savage
William A. Spencer, M.D.
William A.
Spencer, M.D.
Marilyn Price Spivack
Marilyn Price
Sylvia Walker, Ed.D.
Walker, Ed.D.

Volunteer Staff to the Task Force were:

  • Douglas Burleigh, M.D., State Representative, Rehabilitation Services Administration, Kansas City;
  • Yoshiko Dart, Chief of Staff and instrumental in financing and administering all Task Force activities;
  • Tsuneko Gozu assisted with Task Force administration;
  • Eileen Raab analyzed and summarized several thousand documents collected by the Task Force;
  • Gwyneth Rochlin, R.N. was instrumental in arranging more than 60 Task Force meetings and forums in over 40 states; and
  • Hisako Takei assisted with computer systems and administration.

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