Chapter 24. Drafting the Bill, Part 1
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429 24 Drafting the Bill, Part 1 Justin Dart Jr. (continued) “Not only is the President not going to oppose this, he is going to support your proposal.” Following Justin Dart’s 1966 epiphany at the children’s “rehabilitation ” center in Vietnam and several years of self-examination and meditation , he and his wife Yoshiko left Japan, and their business interests, moving to Texas to become a part of the disability rights movement there. The Darts, however , did not leave behind their background, most especially the Dart family’s Republican connections. With the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, the Darts were poised to become leaders in the national disability rights movement. We did a long-range policy for Texas which was very radical, in that we did not confine ourselves to policy that we thought we could get implemented in the political reality. What we thought the governor wanted was a real radical proposal to do the best possible thing, and then let the governor and others decide which part of it they thought they could actually get implemented. One of the things that we proposed was that the civil rights of people with disabilities should be mandated by law. And that was the first proposal of such nature or formal proposal at that period that I know about.1 Then we spent three years writing this thing and several of the things that we proposed did get implemented into law in Texas. I first attended meetings of the National Council wherever they were held and a lot of them were held in Washington. I moved to Washington about twelve or thirteen years ago [in 1985]. That was when Lex Frieden 430 chapter 24 came up here and when we were writing ADA. We put a bunch of our computers and files and a few pots and pans in the back of our pickup truck and came up here supposedly for two months, and we never went back. I mean we had a home in Texas, but we never moved back, and eventually we sold our home there. And [seventeen years later] we are still in the same apartment that we rented to stay a very short time. When the Reagan administration came in I was appointed vice chair of the National Council on Disability, probably because my father was a major player [in the Republican Party]. We eventually managed to get Lex Frieden put in as the director of that National Council, and then I asked Joe Dusenbury, who was the chair, to let me go out and start working on a national policy for people with disabilities. He said yes, and that was our first trip to every state, holding forums. By the time I came to Washington any thought of passing any more national disability rights legislation was pretty well dead. When I went around and visited the fifty states as a preliminary to writing this national policy, people would tell me, “Justin, how could we possibly have full civil rights when we can’t even implement 504?” This national policy was written by, it was edited by advocates in almost every state. We started out with a draft which was a nationalized draft of the Texas policy. I thought it was pretty perfect the way it was, because we had been working on it for years. I thought I was going to take it around to every state more or less to discuss it and have them approve it. But we did say, “If you have some suggestions, then we would be glad to consider them.” And in forty-eight out of fifty states, they made specific suggestions, which I could immediately see would improve the document. I learned plenty about the wisdom of the disability rights advocates in the United States. Then when Lex Frieden came up to Washington we decided to write Toward Independence. And this was in answer to a federal mandate that we do a special report on the state of federal disability legislation and policy, and we report to Congress and the president. We didn’t have a lot of hearings but had a lot of consultations with service providers and with disability rights people, and did a lot of research and so forth. And I think that is when we did the first Harris Poll on people with disabilities, a rather vast undertaking, under the directorship of Lex Frieden, who did an absolutely magnificent job of steering this agenda...


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Subject Headings

  • United States. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
  • People with disabilities -- Civil rights -- United States -- History.
  • People with disabilities -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States -- History.
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