Because this is the summer when the Americans with Disabilities Act turns 25, and since a quarter of a century is generally imagined as the age of solidity, I am, in witness of my dog, today declaring the ADA an adult. Notice I’m calling the act a person, since it’s a custom in the United States to declare accumulations of people individuals. We do this because the primary synonym for person is customer and we sure do love our customers. So I’m nominating the dear ADA a tough customer.
Yes, the ADA is now grown up. Her longevity is remarkable because boy oh boy, did she ever have some enemies, especially when she was just a kid. (Remember Clint Eastwood? How about Antonin Scalia?) Yes, there was a considerable cast of characters (who we can also call a person) who ardently wished to kill ADA in her cradle. I, for instance, have a great memory. I recall Tom Delay saying on the floor of the US Senate in 1990: “The cost to the nation and the economy is going to be dramatic. This goes way beyond the bounds of reason.” Or how about noisome blab from the National Review: “Under the guise of civil rights for the disabled, the Senate had passed a disaster for U.S. business.” ADA’s enemies proposed that euthanizing the child was really for the best. Notice the use of the phrase under the guise of civil rights, as though equal opportunity and civic life are, after all, really, just a fiction, or, to put it more succinctly, they’re a true story only for some. Perhaps the most vigorous opponent of ADA was (and remains) the Chamber of Commerce, which even today, bloviates that accessibility guidelines kill small businesses. (In order to believe this, its crucial to think that “the disabled” are insufficient customers, who live alone, who have no families and spouses and children who also shop.) It’s always staggered me how little the Chamber of Commerce knows about America’s customers. But I digress.
Dear ADA, on this 4th of July in the year of your quarter century, let us remember Thomas Jefferson and his American creed:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…
Dear ADA on this 4th of July in the year of your quarter century, let us remember that it was the consent of the governed, who hailed from both political parties, who brought you forth in the name of Liberty.
Dear ADA, here’s one more quote from Jefferson:
“On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
ADA: you are standing like a rock!