• George Shardlow

Always climbing: Celebrating thirty years of the ADA

July 26, 2020 will mark the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), landmark civil rights legislation for people with disabilities in the United States. The law asserts that people with disabilities have a fundamental right to work, live and play in a manner of their choosing, regardless of disability status. To that end, it requires government, employers and businesses to make any reasonable accommodations necessary to enable people with disabilities to fully participate in civic, professional and recreational life.


Passage of the ADA was not guaranteed, however. It required the activism of people with disabilities and their allies demanding change to secure its approval by Congress.

Therefore, on March 12, Americans with disabilities will honor the 30th anniversary of a different event, the Capitol Crawl. On that day, thousands of disability activists, growing impatient with the United States House of Representatives’ inability to pass the law, got out of their wheelchairs and crawled up the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building.


While the organizers of the protest initially only intended for adults to participate in the Crawl, an 8-year old activist with cerebral palsy, Jennifer Keelan, insisted on participating, as well.



Footage of Jennifer pulling herself up the steps galvanized the nation and prompted the U.S. House to finally move forward with passage of the law. While the ADA was the result of countless hours of activism prior to the Capitol Crawl, the image of Jennifer and her fellow activists crawling up the steps highlighted the barriers they faced in a visceral way, for their fellow citizens, many of whom were oblivious to the barriers people with disabilities face. Ultimately, it was so powerful an image that it prompted the nation to change its laws and mandate full inclusion of people with disabilities.


DSI is proud to partner with people with disabilities and their allies, around the globe, in their quest for dignity and inclusion.

Visit our Global Disability Directory today, to find organizations in your region or country who are engaging in the next generation of activism.


Want to learn more about ADA and the history of the U.S. Disability Rights Movement? Check out Celebrating the Impacts of the ADA.


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