Chris Clarke

Toledo advocate, Chris Clark, listens to speakers at “Pass the ADA” Rally


Pre ADA Hearings

Linda Peters, testifies before a government “listening” panel at a pre-ADA in Cincinnati.


Ability Center Executive Director Tim (center left) and Chris Harrington (far right) with Dale Abell and then Ohio Senator Howard Metzenbaum at the July 26, 1990 signing of the ADA on the White House lawn.


TATTF Press Conference

Area advocates representing multiple disability organizations and people came together as a Task Force


Kelly Dillery vs City of Sandusky protest, Winter 1998



Toledo advocate, Chris Clark, listens to speakers at “Pass the ADA” Rally


Those of us living with disabilities old enough to remember life pre-ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) have vivid memories of life without curb cuts and accessible parking spots, no blue pads and automatic doors, and without access to most stores, restaurants, schools and businesses, and the ability to easily access and ride public transportation. We remember no braille signage, auditory crosswalk signaling, or video description for blind and visually impaired; no interpreters, ability to call for pizza or for a doctor's appointment as a deaf person. Some of us remember special schools across town - with only kids like us, having few options or expectations for higher education, for accessible housing or employment. With very limited accessible living opportunities, many of us had few options but to reside in congregate housing situations like nursing homes, or state-funded apartment complexes identified for the handicapped.

For people with disabilities and our families, everything was harder back then - everything. We had little to no recourse for making things better short of asking politely and hoping for the best. We could sue for access - for our "inalienable" rights to belong and participate - but in the eyes of many, we were merely "angry cripples." Why weren't we happy with what we had? Demanding accommodation, we had no teeth legally, no right to complain.

Seeing parallels with and taking cues from Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement, many of us - staff included - came together as a group, got loud, and took to the streets. In the 60s and 70s, we fought for equal education under the law and access to federal buildings. In the 80s, we fought for curb cuts so we could safely cross streets. We marched for access to Greyhound buses and public transportation. (If you do not drive, how do you travel, visit relatives, go to the store, or movies, to the doctor or work?) Accessible and reliable transportation was - and still is -vital to living and enjoying independent, successful lives.


Looking around the community with an eye on access and accommodation, there is indeed much to be thankful for. The ADA has laid a strong foundation for us and for younger generations moving forward, there is much work yet to do as we strive to create the "most disability-friendly community in the country."

These past thirty years we have spent the majority of our advocacy energy working to implement, fine-tune, and protect the rights afforded us under the ADA. It remains the most important work we do and drives our other programs and services. For all these reasons, we take time this year to honor and celebrate this, the 30th anniversary of the law intended to set us free - the Americans with Disabilities Act.

We also pay homage to all who went before, who fought so hard, who risked everything, who put their bodies on the ground, in front of and under buses, who chained themselves to doors and to each other, who rallied, marched, chanted and went to jail, who crawled up steps and dared to dream of a life with all we have now and more. In their honor, we continue to fight the good fight.

Happy Anniversary, ADA.

Meet the woman made famous as a young girl for crawling up the Capitol steps 30
years ago. Jennifer Keelan shares her experience with young advocates.


Tim Harrington, Ability Center Executive Director

July 26, 1990, seems like yesterday in some ways. The signing ceremony on the lawn of The White House was the culmination of years of hard work and advocacy by hundreds of disability organizations across the country. As I looked through the crowd of over 2,500 people, many with disabilities, it reinforced how perseverance is the key to success. With temperatures in the mid 90s, we watched as President Bush signed the ADA into law. I was accompanied by Chris, my spouse, and work colleague Dale Abell. We watched as legislators from both sides of the aisle reached across party lines to move the rights of people with disabilities to center stage. It was a day I’ll never forget.


Rick Brown Past Board member and past Chairman of the Supporting Organization

I recall being in DC in early 1990 with Dick Gunden for an Independent Living Conference while ADA was in its legislative process. We met with Ohio and local congressional officials to lobby for passage. Further, I did something I had not done since I left the Ann Arbor campus in the 1960s. Dick and I took part in a protest rally to the front of the White House. Our chant was "All the way with ADA" and "Where's George.” I was very pleased when the President signed the legislation later in July. It meant a lot to the Ability Center and our clients.

Matt Sterling Camp Cricket Camper, Counselor, (I also scored the first basket in the gymnasium!)

I was living in NYC working at Time Inc. and remember how big this felt as most of the city was inaccessible and gradually things began to change for the better. I took pride in being able to overcome the obstacles of the city, but remember when ramps started to appear, they lowered the buttons in the elevators and made accessible stalls in the restroom. It was amazing to behold the change happening and I appreciate all the hard work of the activists and legislators did to make this happen!

Mary Verdi-Fletcher Professional Colleague, Services for Independent Living

I was among the advocates that worked to get the law enacted in 1990. I worked for Services for Independent Living (SIL). We gave testimony on the state and national level. While I cannot recall my exact location 30 years ago, I am certain it was among my peers at SIL cheering the movement when the pen hit the paper!

Prior to the ADA, I was a part of a major movement to make mainline public transportation accessible. I was a part of an advocacy group spearheaded by SIL to capture buses on a one-way street at noon in downtown Cleveland. We learned from a group called ADAPT how to approach an act of civil disobedience when nothing else worked! We stayed our ground for 3 hours in the hot blazing sun until the transit authority to work with us to make every new buss wheelchair accessible. I am most proud to be part of the action of change that we all enjoy today!

Valerie Fatica

It's been twenty-nine years since the ADA was passed and architectural barriers still remain a huge issue to people with disabilities. Understanding both the requirements of the law and the impact these barriers have on people with disabilities can help us create a more inclusive community - a community where people with disabilities can go about their daily lives independently, as equally-valued members of society.

Renee Wood Board Member and former staff member of The Ability Center

"Being 61 years old, I lived half of my life with, and without the ADA, so I remember pre-ADA. Being a young person with a disability, I was living my life when the ADA was passed, therefore don't remember where I was that day. I learned of the ADA sometime later. However, I distinctly remember in 1982, at age 23, me and my friend, who also had a disability, were asked to leave an establishment because we were "handicapped" and he didn't want the "liability". I had graduated with my Associates degree, had lived in 2 different apartments, and had had 2 paying jobs by '82. This event really affected me, I was upset because my "civil rights" were violated. I assumed I was covered under the "civil rights act". When someone casualty explained that people with disabilities were not covered in the civil rights laws, I felt sickened and confused - I just didn't understand (as a young idealist) how that could be true, that I could be asked to leave any public business because of my disability and had no legal recourse? It was mind boggling to me as to the reason why people with disabilities were not included in the civil rights act. In 2001, as part of my job, I was surveying a public housing complex. The person behind the desk said that I had no right to be there without my social worker. She told me I was a liability and wanted me out of the building. She put me out in a thunderstorm and called the police. Thank God my employer understood and we lodged a complaint, and received a good settlement. The ADA realized my civil rights as a person with a disability."

ADA Testimonial

ADA Virtual Info Sessions

Local Mayors’ Panel and Title II Training

Tune in to listen to our virtual trainings to explore the practical use of the ADA in today’s society. Hear from local Mayors and legislators for a conversation regarding best practices and making our region the most disability friendly in the country.

ADA 30 Webinars

View our July collection of webinars designed to educate on the ADA, celebrate the passing, and look ahead to the future of rights for individuals with disabilities.

Tom Olin, Disability Rights Movement Photographer

Below is a collection of photos that represent the disability rights movement.

The ADA Made it Possible

On June 22, 1999, the United States Supreme Court held in Olmstead v. L.C. that
unjustified segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination in
violation of title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.