Leaders of the Movement

The American’s with Disabilities Act 1990:
Learn about some of the key leaders in the Disability Rights Movement: ADA Leaders in the Disability Rights Movement


Ed Roberts “the Father of the Independent Living Movement”:

Born Jan. 23, 1939, in California and died on March 14, 1995.

Ed’s leadership skills emerged and he took lessons from other campus movements to start the independent living and disability rights movements for persons with disabilities. Ed was quick to grasp that the struggle for independence was not a medical or functional issue, but rather a sociological, political, and civil rights struggle. Additionally, Ed’s involvement with Gini Laurie’s Toomey J. Gazette, (later named the Rehabilitation Gazette), clarified that credible information and new, innovative ways of managing life with a severe disability were best taught by peers with similar disabilities. Gini’s publications were essentially forums for people with polio and various disabilities to share how they managed their lives and maintained their productivity with severe disabilities. The roots of the independent living model can clearly be traced to influences from the civil rights movement and the peer support model associated with Gini Laurie’s Rehabilitation Gazette.


Evan Kemp ADAADA Signing 1990

Evan Kemp, Jr.:

As chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Evan helped shape the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.


Fred FayFred Fay:

September 12, 1944 – August 20, 2011.

As a disability policy adviser to the Administration and Congress, Fred was instrumental in winning passage of Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, the ADA of 1990, and the IDEA of 1997.

For additional information about Fred Fay please visit: A Life Worth Living



Judith (Judy) Heumann

Judith E. Heumann is an American disability rights activist and an internationally recognized leader in the disability community. After 30-plus years working as an activist, Heumann advocates that “Disability only becomes a tragedy for me when society fails to provide the things we need to lead our lives—job opportunities or barrier-free buildings, for example. It is not a tragedy to me that I’m living in a wheelchair.”



Justin DartJustin Dart, Jr. “Father of the ADA”:

Justin Dart, Jr., who is widely thought of as the “father” of the ADA, was born in 1930 to a very wealthy, prominent family. Growing up, Justin was very misbehaved, attending seven high schools, but never graduating. He later described himself as a “super-loser,” admitting that he didn’t like himself. In 1948 Justin contracted polio and was given three days to live. It was at this point in his life that Justin changed directions.

Additional information on Justin Dart please visit: Disability Social History Project


Wade Blank

Wade Blank “A Founder of ADAPT and Atlantis Community”:

American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT) and its mother, the Atlantis Community in Denver, both embody the spiritual, organizational and strategic lessons Blank carried over from the 1960s black civil rights movement. He had been a Presbyterian minister, a War on Poverty field organizer and a disciple of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., before becoming an orderly, then an assistant administrator, in a Denver nursing home.

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