The first significant book on the history and impact of the ADA—the “eyes on the prize” moment for disability rights
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the widest-ranging and most comprehensive piece of civil rights legislation ever passed in the United States, and it has become the model for disability-based laws around the world. Yet the surprising story behind how the bill came to be is little known.
In this riveting account, acclaimed disability scholar Lennard J. Davis delivers the first behind-the-scenes and on-the-ground narrative of how a band of leftist Berkeley hippies managed to make an alliance with upper-crust, conservative Republicans to bring about a truly bipartisan bill. Based on extensive interviews with all the major players involved including legislators and activists, Davis recreates the dramatic tension of a story that is anything but a dry account of bills and speeches. Rather, it’s filled with one indefatigable character after another, culminating in explosive moments when the hidden army of the disability community stages scenes like the iconic “Capitol Crawl” or an event some describe as “deaf Selma,” when students stormed Gallaudet University demanding a “Deaf President Now!”
From inside the offices of newly formed disability groups to secret breakfast meetings surreptitiously held outside the White House grounds, here we meet countless unsung characters, including political heavyweights and disability advocates on the front lines. “You want to fight?” an angered Ted Kennedy would shout in an upstairs room at the Capitol while negotiating the final details of the ADA. Congressman Tony Coelho, whose parents once thought him to be possessed by the devil because of his epilepsy, later became the bill’s primary sponsor. There’s Justin Dart, adorned in disability power buttons and his signature cowboy hat, who took to the road canvassing fifty states, and people like Patrisha Wright, also known as “The General,” Arlene Myerson or “the brains,” “architect” Bob Funk, and visionary Mary Lou Breslin, who left the hippie highlands of the West to pursue equal rights in the marble halls of DC.
Published for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the ADA, Enabling Acts promises to ignite readers in a discussion of disability rights by documenting this “eyes on the prize” moment for tens of millions of American citizens.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
An award-winning author of eleven books, including My Sense of Silence, Lennard J. Davis is Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts in the departments of Disability Studies and English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has written for the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Nation, and Chronicle of Higher Education, among other publications. He lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
Author's Note ix
Prologue: July 28, 1989 I
1 Forty-Six Words that Changed History 7
2 DC Outsiders Turn Washington Insiders 19
3 The Texas Connection 36
4 Let Right Be Done 52
5 Banging the Drum Loudly 63
6 Flat Earth, Deaf World 76
7 A New Band of Reformers 100
8 A New Day, a New ADA 115
9 White House Battles Senate 132
10 Secret Meetings and Bagel Breakfasts 143
11 "This Means War!" 161
12 Building the Accessible Ramp to the House of Representatives 174
13 The Capitol Crawl 191
14 On the White House Lawn 217
15 Enabling the ADA 225
Cast of Characters 253
Bibliographical Note 257
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Lennard Davis has weaved together a plethora of interviews into an amazing and intimate story on the process, politics, and emotions of the ADA. Davis provides a human element of the ADA without excessive dramatization. I’ve conducted similar qualitative research and can personally attest to the difficulty of piecing together different interviews and perspectives into an intriguing narrative that separates the author’s viewpoint from the outcome. Davis is a disability studies scholar and professor who can personally relate to the social struggles of accessibility. Policy wonks will probably enjoy this book the most. The give and take, secrecy, and truly broad spectrum of individual inputs toward the legislation makes for a compelling tale that often reads like a novel. There were times when I had to go back a few pages to remind myself of who the players were, but the Cast of Characters in the back of the book helps to keep the reader grounded. As Davis notes, the disabled community is the largest US minority. Yet, there are differing levels of ability, perceptions of ability, and social hurdles which encompass this community. This means that consensus is often difficult, and that’s what makes the ADA’s story so important. A strength of the book is Davis’s ability to make the reader feel the community’s voices through their respective representatives, activists, and associations. Personally, I envisaged a deeper exploration of independent living – including the lives of Max and Colleen Starkloff, as well as more than a cursory inclusion of Ed Roberts. But that’s unfair to Davis, since this book is focused on the development of the ADA and the interspersed relationships formed and nurtured throughout. Overall, Davis provides a compelling read that is as informative as it is gratifying. As Davis notes, it’s impossible to include every character involved in the development and passing of the ADA, but he does a masterful job in telling the story of those individuals who were interviewed. My copy of the book was provided in exchange for an honest review.
"Enabling Acts" is thorough history of the ADA from it's conception to its passage. Many don't realize how much was changed for those with physical and cognitive disabilities with the passage of the act, nor do they realize just how difficult it was to get passed. This book is well-researched and includes many facts. It can be a difficult read and meander some at times, so I would not recommend it for those looking for a light or easy read. This unbiased review is based on a book was won through the Goodreads First Reads program.