(July 27, 2010) — At a White House event celebrating the historic ADA 20th anniversary, President Obama announced an update to the “milestone in the journey to equality.” The president signed an executive order establishing the federal government as a “model employer” of people with disabilities.
Members of SAG attended as well as Adam Moore, SAG associate director of Affirmative Action & Diversity. Robert David Hall, (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), National Chair of the Tri-Union (SAG, AFTRA and Actors' Equity) Performers With Disabilities Committee, spoke and introduced Obama. Click here for video. Below are Hall's remarks:
This is a great day.
To stand here with my sisters and brothers who are citizens with disabilities
to join with parents, activists, artists, and supporters to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act is, quite simply, a joy.
I’m not an expert on the ADA.
I’m an American with a Disability who thinks the letter and spirit of this groundbreaking law has made my life better and will-with continued hard work- pave the way for future generations of people with every type of disability to achieve their full potential..
As a newly disabled man in 1978, I knew nothing of “disability rights.” I wanted to be an actor, and a musician and I was intent on pursuing my career. Well-meaning friends urged me, to pursue a more appropriate career. I, of course, ignored them.
During the past 32 years, I’ve been influenced by many people in the disability community. The heavy lifting, however, to quote Arlene Meyerson, has been done by “many thousands of people who make up the disability rights movement-people who have worked for years organizing and attending protests, licking envelopes, sending out alerts, drafting legislation, speaking, testifying, negotiating, lobbying, filing lawsuits, being arrested-doing whatever they could for a cause they believed in.”
I wasn’t here in March of 1990 when 3 dozen of my brothers and sisters abandoned their wheelchairs and crawled up the Capitol Steps…their struggle reminds me this battle for basic human and civil rights is a marathon race…every victory, like the ADA, is hard fought and only begins the next phase of the journey.
There are so many heroes in our movement.
Mine include Dr. Victoria Ann Lewis, Theater and Disabilities Studies Professor at the University of Redlands, Alan Toy, an actor and activist from Los Angeles, Tari Hartman Squire, a dynamo in the world of disability communications, Dr. Paul Longmore, historian and disability studies prof from San Francisco, and Gail Williamson , champion of children with Down syndrome.
I’m also extremely proud of my three Unions, Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and Actors Equity. All were present at the original ADA signing.
Another man who’s influenced me greatly is my brother, Bruce Hall who was born legally blind...Our mother fought to keep him main-streamed in school and he grew up to become a teacher and an award winning photographer. Bruce is also the father of handsome 9 year old twin boys, Jack and James, who have profound autism. As many of you parents understand, Bruce and his wife, Valerie, climb the equivalent of the Capitol Steps every day trying to provide the best possible life for their sons.
I also owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women who pushed for passage of the ADA…and, of course, I honor the pioneers of the Disability Civil Rights movement as well.
But right now, it is my great honor to introduce an American who understands that obstacles are part of life and they CAN be dealt with — a man who-with our help- is fighting for authentic and lasting solutions for all Americans in so many arenas...a Husband, Father, Son, and Grandson who recognizes that Americans with Disabilities have only begun to claim their birthright.
Please join me in welcoming the 44th President of our great country…Barack Obama.
View the entire White House event below: