“WE SET THE STAGE FOR THE ADA” - Organizer Judy Heumann, 20th Anniversary Celebration
Without Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, there would be no Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The 1973 Act served as a template for the more comprehensive law passed in 1990. 504 gave ADA advocates evidence that disability rights could benefit many without adding a huge burden on society.
Because 504 defined disability flexibly and took prejudice into account, the ADA could be about civil rights rather than medical diagnoses.
By building in ideas such as “reasonable accommodation” and “avoiding undue hardship,” Section 504 ensured that the ADA would always be about compromise.
After the long wait to have Section 504 signed, those who wrote the ADA made sure that it had to be signed into law within one year.
Section 504 and the battle to have it signed forged a generation of disability activists who would help draft and pass the ADA.
Because the Section 504 protests and legislation grouped people with many different disabilities together, there would be one big ADA instead of mini-ADAs for each impairment group.
The Section 504 protest lit the spark for a national disability rights movement and national disability organizations that could promote and defend the ADA.
Photographs in video courtesy of HolLynn D'Lil
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