Chapter 30. Insiders, Part 2
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503 30 Insiders, Part 2 It is a truism of the movement that everyone is just one accident or illness away from being a person with a disability. People without disabilities therefore are often called “TABs,” meaning “temporarily able-bodied ,” and the disability community itself is sometimes called “an open minority ”—meaning that anyone, no matter what their race, gender, class, ethnicity, or politics—can become a member. While in some respects this might be a political weakness, in that it makes it that much more difficult for organizers to bring this disparate constituency together, it also means that the movement has been able to find some seemingly unlikely allies in high places, President George H. W. Bush being a prime example. Another such ally was C. Boyden Gray. C. Boyden Gray “It was an attitudinal thing. That was why we needed the act.” Born in February 1943, Gray is a politically conservative attorney and a member of the Federalist Society, which is generally skeptical of any federal mandate , regulation, or civil rights law. And yet, because of his close relationship with Evan Kemp, Gray became one of the staunchest supporters of the ADA within the Bush administration. Gray graduated from Harvard University in 1964. After serving in the US Marine Corps Reserve, he attended law school at the University of North Carolina , graduating in 1968. He clerked for Chief Justice Earl Warren and then went into private practice until 1981, when he became legal counsel to Vice President Bush and then Counsel to the President from 1989 to 1993. That same year President Bill Clinton presented Gray with a Presidential Citizens Medal. In 2006, Gray was appointed US ambassador to the European Union, and in 2008 as special envoy for European affairs and special envoy for Eurasian energy at the US Mission to the European Union. He has also continued to be 504 chapter 30 active politically, serving, for example, as co-chair, with former US congressman Dick Armey, of FreedomWorks, a conservative nonprofit foundation based in Washington. We were embroiled early on in the Reagan administration, right off the bat, with the program for deregulation. I was assigned one particularly thorny issue involving the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board,1 otherwise known as the ATBCB. They had coughed up a rather complex set of regulations on the eve of the inauguration— one of the so-called midnight regulations—and it was my task to unwind all of that. Also on the radar screen were the regulations implementing 94-142—the Education for All Handicapped Children statute. And so I was very early immersed deep into disability issues. As I got more and more immersed I became more and more intrigued with the issues, and I was given enormous help from an old friend of mine—with whom I had played bridge over the years—named Evan Kemp, who really is, in many ways, the grandfather of the disability movement. I learned that the ATBCB regs could easily be withdrawn and redone. I also learned that 94-142 was not so simple, and was a different issue. And in the process of all this I learned about the power of the movement , how big it was—what an ignored civil rights issue this had been, and I ended up spending a great deal of time in the eighties and into the nineties on the issue. But it was that deregulation phase in the early Reagan years that got me involved. And my great friend Evan Kemp became my teacher. Everything that I’ve been able to do I really owe to him. President Bush had such insights into this—I think in part because his son Neil was dyslexic. His parents were told he could never finish college, and they managed to get around that and he actually ended up with an advanced degree in five years. Or maybe it was because of his daughter, the one he lost to leukemia. His favorite uncle was a leading surgeon in New York—a Walker cousin or a Walker uncle, I guess a brother of his mother’s. I knew him too; I played a lot of bridge with him. Wonderful, wonderful man. And he came down with polio or something, and he spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair and could no longer practice his specialty. I think thosethingsworkedinthepresident’smindtoteachhimabouttheseissues. But he was completely understanding of what was going on and never hesitated a moment, and took...



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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