CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Many have taken a moment to look back at the presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush, but one particular group of Americans is reflecting on what President Bush did for them during his time in office.
“In the last few days since his passing there has been a lot of tributes online and websites dedicated to people with disabilities. More than one person has said he was our emancipator. He is the Abraham Lincoln of the disability community,” said Julia Sain. “He is revered. He is a president who, because he supported Fair Housing and he supported the Americans with Disabilities Act, is seen as someone who in spite of his far-reaching capacity this was something that he very quietly – you didn’t know that was his platform but he wanted to make this happen and he made this happen.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed in 1990 but Bush first started championing it when he was Vice President. He stepped in for his boss, President Reagan, and took a meeting on a report.
“In early 1986 the National Council on Disabilities put together a report on the state of people with disabilities in the country and there was discrimination, segregation and rather than just have a building code that says let’s put up ramps, there needed to be comprehensive civil rights legislation for people with disabilities” said Sain, who is the Executive Director of the Disability Rights & Resources in Charlotte.
For more than three years, Bush worked to get legislation to make sure disabled residents would not be discriminated.
Sain said Bush made sure he had bipartisan support and he talked to small business owners and listened to people with disabilities.
In 1990, by which time he had become President, Bush signed the ADA into law.
It ensures inclusion and access for people with disabilities.
“It is not just wheelchairs. It is having sign language interpreters, having braille on doors, having accessible buses,” said Sain.
On a poster commemorating the signing of the ADA, there’s a quote from President Bush.
“Let the shameful walls of exclusion finally come tumbling down,” said Sain. “We quote that a lot. That is definitely one of the things we can quote in the disability community that he said that day.”
On the walls inside Disability Rights & Resources, President Bush has a presence.
There’s a photo of Bush signing the ADA.
There’s a framed invitation to the signing.
Chester Helms, the man who founded Disability Rights and Resources in Charlotte was invited to the Rose Garden to witness the moment that changed millions of people’s lives.
Also on the wall is a button that was given out to people who attended the event that day.
President Bush died 28 years after signing the landmark legislation.
For the disabled community, no amount of time can pass that will diminish President George Herbert Walker Bush’s role in their lives.