Opening Remarks of Chairman Bill Frist
Senate Subcommittee on Disability Policy
Forum on the Americans with Disability Act
July 26, 1995
I am pleased that, on the fifth anniversary of the Americans with
Disabilities Act, our guests and friends have joined us for this
forum on the ADA. This event is one of many events where the hope
and promise of the ADA will be celebrated. Celebrations are
important, they help us remember what happened on a specific date
and why. But, anniversary celebrations are the easy part.
On July 26, 1990, July 26, 1992, July 26, 1994, America's face
began to change. We began to expect more from each other and from
ourselves. Environments changed. Opportunity mushroomed. And
slowly new attitudes emerged.
Why? Because people of good faith and intentions, many of whom are
in this room, came together to craft a law that was needed,
balanced, and right -- the Americans with Disabilities Act. The
ADA is solid legislation. It has survived tests and challenges in
its brief life. It will endure.
Although we come here in celebration, I suspect some people may
have a sense of loss -- lost energy and effort that came so easily
when the ADA was an idea to be dreamed and shaped; lost single
purposeness that helped many put a side differences and work toward
a common goal; and lost urgency, no longer do many behave as if
they must seize the moment and make it count.
There is energy in this room. There is spirit in this room. There
is leadership in this room. Let's use it to restore the
excitement, commitment, and influence that led to that sunny day on
the White House lawn five years ago.
As we grapple with the strategies and messages that will emanate
from our renewed comraderie, commitment, and purpose, we must
remember these points.
The ADA is a success, demonstrated in part by its invisibility.
Curb cuts are numerous. Bathrooms are accessible. Parking places
are reserved. Directional sings are brailled. More television
programming is captioned. These things are becoming commonplace.
They are assumed, expected, and ignored. None of these things
comes with a sign that reads, "Complements of the ADA." Yet they
stand as silent monuments to what has been achieved.
The challenges that remain are more subtle. They require patience
and negotiation. They are most likely to be met and resolved by a
desire for results not credit, partnership not confrontation, and
creativity not inflexibility.
My vision of tomorrow -- as a Senator, as a Chairman, as a
physician, as a husband and father -- is founded on the belief that
we will make the time, find the energy and build the new
partnerships needed to make civil rights for individuals with
disabilities something that all Americans accept, expect, and
protect. Disability then will be viewed as through the eyes of a
child, as a fascinating difference not a cause for discomfort.
People of broad experience and diverse abilities will be thrown
together in school, at work, and at play by happenstance, talent,
and interest not because of rules or obligations. The ADA will
make all that happen. That is as it should be.