This Black History Month, I thought I would share information I recently learned about the contributions that Rep. Major Robert Odell Owens made working for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Rep. Owens served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983 to 2007.
When the ADA was first introduced in 1988, many Americans were not aware picture of rep owensof how biased attitudes and the lack of accessibility were severely limiting people with disabilities’ ability to access their rights as citizens (including rights to voting and education, rights prohibiting discrimination in employment and housing, and much more). Rep. Owens formed the Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of Americans with Disabilities to collect information to show the extent of disability discrimination. Justin Dart, often considered the “Father of the ADA,” was appointed co-chair of this committee, and Rep. Owens advised him to hold forums across the country to raise awareness of the discrimination people with disabilities were facing. Dart’s cross-country tour generated grassroots support for the ADA across the nation.
Rep. Owens was also a primary backer and floor manager of the version of the ADA that was introduced and passed in 1990. He was very consistent in enforcing the legislation that protects people with disabilities from being discriminated against.
“A civilized and moral government which is also seeking to enhance its own self–interest must strive to maximize the opportunities for the educational development, equal access and productive employment of all its citizens,” Rep. Owens said.
There is still much work to be done to make our community accessible and inclusive. You can make a difference by getting involved in our advocacy work.