There has never been a more influential and monumental moment in disability rights than when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990. This legislation transformed the lives of millions of people with disabilities and continues to pave the way for anti-discrimination and accessibility. One of the lead Senate sponsors of the ADA, Senator Lowell Weicker, Jr. (R-CT), passed away on June 28, 2023, leaving behind a multigenerational legacy of inclusion. Senator Weicker was a parent of a child with Down syndrome and wanted more for our society and his son’s future than isolation and segregation. He knew firsthand that people with disabilities have diverse and rich perspectives and talents and they deserve a place in society alongside everyone else. He bridged the divides of parties, influencing his fellow members of Congress to consider disability rights as a bipartisan issue, an impact that is felt to this day.
The Arc appreciates the critical role Senator Weicker played in the development and funding of major disability programs through his chairmanship of key Senate subcommittees. He used his position to investigate and hold influential hearings on the treatment of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness, and other disabilities in institutions at that time, laying the groundwork for future reforms. As Senator Weicker stressed in his address to Congress, “Disabled persons may represent a minority in this country, but they are a minority any of us may join at any time… you can secure to [my son] and his 43 million peers a happiness that only comes with love equally devised and administered.”
We are in awe of Senator Weicker’s courage and persistence in fighting to get groundbreaking disability rights legislation into law, as well as his ongoing advocacy for the independence and inclusion of people with disabilities.
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