Chapter 28. Mobilizing the Community
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481 28 Mobilizing the Community Civil rights legislation, when passed, is almost always a response to pressure from the public, exerted in a variety of ways. The ADA was no exception. At first, this effort, as some of the ADA point people have been candid enough to admit, was somewhat sketchy, more “smoke and mirrors” than an actual, engaged constituency. But as time went on, and the message spread either through personal meetings such as those organized by Justin Dart and the Owen task force, through the disability press, or by simple word of mouth, more and more people became engaged and then committed to seeing the ADA through to final passage. Marilyn Golden “People rallied in a huge way.” One of those most involved in making this happen was Marilyn Golden. She was already an experienced activist, although she considered herself “quite ‘green’ in terms of national advocacy” when her work on ADA began. Golden was born in 1954 in San Antonio. After graduating from Brandeis with a degree in sociology, she returned to Texas and became the volunteer social action codirector of the Coalition for Barrier Free Living in Houston in 1977 and, in 1978, a founder of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities. That same year she moved again, this time to California, where she became director of Access California, an information center “on architectural accessibility run by the City of Oakland. I got to know other leaders and advocates in the San Francisco Bay area.” In 1987, she coordinated the involvement of local advocates with ADAPT’s protests against the American Public Transit Association , in the course of which she became acquainted with people at DREDF, especially Mary Lou Breslin. “I chose working at DREDF because I would get a chance to work with Mary Lou, and it was the best choice I ever made.” 482 chapter 28 Golden thus wore several hats during the campaign to pass the ADA. As an expert on architectural and transportation access, she was involved with developing the parts of the bill related to these topics, immersing herself in the arcana of over the-road-bus modifications and access requirements for passenger and commuter trains. Golden was also, together with Liz Savage and Breslin, instrumental in identifying and rallying grassroots groups around the country. And so, when a particular senator or congressperson needed to be “pressed,” it was often Marilyn Golden who got the ball rolling. During the Senate portion of the ADA of 1989, which was before the House, we needed grassroots pressure for key senators, and since there aren’t that many senators, relatively speaking, I was able to do the calls. Liz Savage, who I was working with very, very closely, had assigned me a lot of the grassroots organizing. And so I would call into a state any leadership that we knew, or call nearby states, if we didn’t know anyone in that state. I looked at who I knew and I looked at who my colleagues knew, and we would talk to those leaders, “We need letters going to Senator Dah-dah-dah, letters and calls.” And then I would try to assess as best I could, by talking to them on the phone, whether there would be follow-through, and get from them other names, and then call the other people they mentioned. And we would hear sometimes that a certain member, all of a sudden, was getting better. We would hear, anecdotally. So we knew a little bit from that whether it was working. But a lot of it was a guess. But we did get letters coming in and we did have some sense that it worked. When the bill went to the House, it was far too big for one person to make all those calls, for so many members of Congress. So the idea evolved to develop a system—we called it ADA Regional Contact Persons—that divided the country up into twenty-five groups. It really varied. For example , Texas was one region, but New York was two. There’s New York City and there’s the rest of the state. And the same with Illinois. There’s Chicago and there’s the rest of the state, and if you don’t know that about that state, you don’t know that state in terms of grassroots organizing. And so in each of these regions of the country, which could be part of a state, one state, or...


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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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