restricted access Chapter 27. Lobbying and Gathering Support
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470 27 Lobbying and Gathering Support The new draft of the ADA was submitted to both houses of Congress on May 9, 1989, and the lobbying effort on the part of the broad disability rights movement began in earnest. The first hurdle was getting it through the Senate—this happened on the night of September 7–8, 1989, with a vote of 76 to 8.1 Steering the bill through the House was more difficult. A bill as complex and touching on so many facets of American life had to be sorted through by no less than four separate House committees and six subcommittees, with the potential to derail the entire process in each one. Here, again, Tony Coelho exerted his considerable influence, not only on a one-to-one basis with various members of Congress but also by recruiting Liz Savage (and, by extension, the Epilepsy Foundation of America) as a central part of the campaign. Savage, in turn, proved to be a remarkable and sophisticated advocate, yet another instance of the community somehow finding the right person to fill the right place at the right time.2 Liz Savage “There was something in it for everyone, and no one group had the power to pull it off on their own.” Liz Savage was born in 1955 in Norwich, Connecticut. “When I was about two years old my parents realized that I had poor vision. My vision deteriorated as I grew up, but growing up in the late fifties and the sixties, I was taught to ignore my disability, and the same expectations were made of me as were of other, non-disabled children. . . . The positive part of that is that I was encouraged to be incredibly independent, for which I’m very grateful. I was not patronized or coddled, and I was fortunate in that my parents had the moxie and the where- lobbying and gathering support 471 withal to ensure that I had the best treatment that modern medicine had to offer, so a lot of my vision was saved. If I hadn’t had the access to the specialists I did, I probably would have been blind at age fifteen. “But there was no assistive technology, there were no support groups for parents , there were no laws that provided accommodations. It was a time when parents didn’t really question doctors in a holistic way, so I did a lot of things that in retrospect I shouldn’t have done, like contact sports, which for people with low vision have the potential to destabilize your vision by causing a detached retina. So I grew up in a time that was radically different than the life that kids with low vision or other disabilities experience today.” Savage is perhaps best known for her work as chief lobbyist for the Epilepsy Foundation during the time the ADA was working its way through Congress. Currently she is the director of health and housing policy for the Disability Policy Consortium of the Arc of the United States and United Cerebral Palsy, and housing co-anchor of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities. I never went to law school to be a litigator, and that wasn’t really my forte. I decided that I wanted to come back to Washington and do policy work. It seemed to me that because I had this personal interest in disability that that would be the most fruitful avenue to pursue. And through people in the [Geraldine] Ferraro [vice-presidential] campaign [of 1984] I met Anne Rosewater, who worked for Congressman George Miller [D-CA] on the Select Committee on Children, who had worked very closely with DREDF, with Pat Wright and Arlene Mayerson and Mary Lou Breslin. I hung out with Pat and learned a lot from her, and did some project for DREDF, the specifics of which I can’t remember. The one thing that distinguishes me from a lot of people in the disability movement is I had a lot of campaign experience before I came to the disability community, and most of my friends were political. I view the world in political ways, which is different from a lot of other people in the community. I was a lawyer and I was interested in civil rights, but I also had a political background, so lobbying seemed like it would be an appropriate avenue to pursue. I had friends in the Ferraro campaign who were hooked up with Pat [Wright] and with...


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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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