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Friday, July 8, 2016

"Climbing the Capitol Steps for Americans with Disabilities Act"

The “Capitol Crawl” had an effect on the passage of the ADA. Several Senators felt “inconvenience” by the “stunt” and it reportedly pushed them to approve the Act. At the time, the event was not widely known to the public since the media failed to shed much light on it. But to present-day disability activists, on the other hand, the “Capitol Crawl” is seen as one of the single most important events that finally pushed for the passage of the ADA into law.




Capitol Crawl  PBS Independent Lens (trailer)




ADA supporters crawling up
 the steps of the U.S. Capital
building on March 12, 1900.
Photo Credit:
 
Tom Olin/Disability History Museum

Monday, March 12, 1990 disability rights activists descended on the U.S. Capitol demanding the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which would give equal rights to people with disabilities. The ADA was passed by the Senate the year before but as finding complications getting through the House of Representatives. Well over 1,000 protesters came from around the country to protest the Act’s delay.











Jennifer Keelan of Denver, (the little girl in above video) talks about growing up as a person with a disability in the era of the ADA, as well as her activism as young child fighting for the ADA.


YouTube Uploaded by It's Our Story on Jul 21, 2010




After the day’s rally and speeches, over 60 activists abandoned their wheelchairs and mobility devices and began crawling the 83 stone steps up to the U.S. Capitol Building. During which people were loudly chanting “What do we want?” “ADA!” “When do we want it?” “NOW!” Other activists remained at the bottom holding signs and giving encouragement to the crawlers. “I want my civil rights,” Paulette Patterson of Chicago stated as she was inching her way to the top. “I want to be treated like a human being.” Eight-year-old Jennifer Keelan was famously taped [as seen in the video above] while crawling up the stairs. “I’ll take all night if I have to,” she firmly stated. The second-grader from Denver suffered from cerebral palsy and decided to partake in the crawl after joining ADAPT (Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transit). She was inspired by her friend Kenny Perkins who passed away in January 1990. As Jennifer reached the top she stated, “I’m doing it for Kenny.” Michael Winters, a leader in the Independent Living Movement, later wrote about event and the reaction people had to the crawl. “Some people may have thought that it was undignified for people in wheelchairs to crawl in that manner, but I felt that it was necessary to show the country what kinds of things people with disabilities have to face on a day-to-day basis,” Winters recalled. “We had to be willing to fight for what we believed in.”


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