By Steve Suroviec, President and CEO
My sister Paula developed Multiple Sclerosis a decade before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed into law. As her younger brother, I witnessed how society had built barriers – physical, attitudinal, and others - that prevented people with disabilities like her from pursuing their dreams and the lives they wanted to lead. Paula persevered in spite of those challenges, but when the ADA was passed things got much better.
Richard “Dick” Thornburgh was the U.S. Attorney General at the time the ADA was enacted, serving as President George H.W. Bush’s point person to negotiate the executive branch’s position with the legislative branch. As the father of a young man with a disability, Dick Thornburgh had a deep appreciation for the obstacles and barriers faced by people with disabilities - he was the right person, in the right job, at the right time.
Since July 1990, the ADA has removed barriers and opened doors for millions of people with disabilities. The civil rights law has paved the way for even more advanced and far-reaching public policies, legal decisions, and state and federal statutes, opening more doors and creating more opportunities than anyone could ever have imagined three decades ago. The legacy of Dick Thornburgh will live on in the generations of people with disabilities living now and those yet to be born – because they will have the chance to live their lives and pursue their dreams free from discrimination.
Dick Thornburgh died on New Year’s eve. We at Achieva mourn his loss - as a public servant, disability advocate, and family member.