Chapter 35. Aftermath
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548 35 Aftermath The twenty years after the passage of the ADA saw continued successes—as well as some significant setbacks—for the American disability rights movement. Yet nothing during those years so galvanized the community as did the struggle to pass the ADA. Nor did any coalition in those following decades approach the broad, bipartisan, cross-disability alliance that had shepherded the act through Congress to its final signature on the White House lawn. In fact, Justin Dart’s fears were to some degree realized. An intense backlash did occur. Critics of the act fulminated in the media, and adverse federal and Supreme Court rulings were handed down—often catching the community by surprise. A virtual industry of conservative and libertarian think tanks, lawyers, journalists, and publications seemingly intent on ridiculing the very notion of disability rights was spawned. Most notable in these efforts was the proliferation of ADA “horror stories,” many of which were exaggerated or entirely fictitious, and attempts by, among others, Clint Eastwood to amend the act so as to limit its impact.1 Moreover, although many of the groups participating in the push for the ADA continued on the scene, they moved on to work separately on their particular issues. ADAPT, for example, switched its focus from accessible mass transit (which was now mandated in Title II of the act) to the provision of personal care services outside of nursing homes and other institutional settings—a shift reflected in the organization’s name change, from American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit to American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today. Other groups, such as those comprising the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities , largely reverted to their advocacy for increased budgets or various programmatic changes as opposed to straightforward civil rights work. The midterm elections of 1994, which shifted control of both the House and Senate from center and liberal Democrats to conservative Republicans, seemed then to spell an end to Patrisha Wright’s “golden age of disability rights aftermath 549 legislation.” Once again, as in the early 1980s, the emphasis was on defending rights already won. Justin Dart put it another way, comparing the situation of the disability rights movement to an army “that has seized control of the battlefield, but doesn’t have the troops to hold it.”2 In response to these developments, Dart, Fred Fay, and Becky Ogle in 1995 founded Justice for All, taking advantage of the emerging Internet and allies closely connected to Congress to pull together a rapid response network to foil attempts to roll back the gains made up to 1990. DREDF, recovering from a period of turmoil in the early nineties, returned to the field to litigate important cases and push for further legislation to solidify and extend those gains. ADAPT and its legal allies, meantime, won what was perhaps the most significant ADA-related lawsuit of the 1990s. Olmstead v. L.C and E.W. was brought by two Georgia women with disabilities who had asked that the state provide them the community-based services they needed to live outside the nursing homes wheretheywerebeingkeptatstateexpense.Theyfiledsuitwhenthestaterefused. The Supreme Court ruled in July 1999 that the ADA required states to provide, wherever possible, community-based services rather than institutionalization. ADAPT also began lobbying for MiCASA [the Medicaid Community Attendant Services Act] and then for the Community Choice Act, efforts through legislation to force federal and state governments to direct significant public funding away from nursing homes and into independent living services.3 There were new groups arriving on the scene as well, though these tended to focus on specific issues not directly addressed by the ADA. Not Dead Yet, put together in large part by Diane Coleman, Carol Gill, and Steven Drake, tackled the issue of physician-assisted suicide. To them, the notoriety, even acclaim, which former doctor Jack Kevorkian received for what advocates perceived as the murder of people with disabilities, the majority of whom were not terminally ill, was an indication that the passage of the ADA had done little to change public perception of disability as “a fate worse than death.” Jerry’s Orphans, founded by Mike Irvin and his sister, Cris Matthews, confronted what they (and others, including Evan Kemp Jr.), saw as the paternalistic and demeaning stereotypes fostered by Jerry Lewis and his annual Labor Day Telethon to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.4 The National Council on Independent Living and the National Council on Disability meanwhile devoted significant energy to spreading the...



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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