I wanted to take a moment to honor Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy who passed away late last night.
President Barack Obama referred him as “the greatest United States Senator of our time.”
New York Times in an article this morning recognized that “his most notable focus was civil rights,” and that “perhaps his greatest success on civil rights came in 1990 with passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).”
The American Association of People with Disabilities (I am a board member of that organization) released a statement by AAPD Chair (and co-author of the ADA) Tony Coehlo who said “Ted Kennedy understood better than anyone how the struggle for equal opportunity for disabled Americans was an essential part of this nation’s broader commitment to civil and human rights. I have never worked with a more effective legislator, and I am deeply saddened to have lost a good friend.”
The same statement also quoted AAPD President and CEO Andy Imparato who said, “AAPD joins our colleagues throughout the civil rights movement in mourning the loss of one our most effective champions. His legacy will be felt for generations to come, as millions of Americans with disabilities and our families recommit ourselves to his vision of equality and full citizenship for all people.”
Dan Luis, Purple’s CEO, reflected on Senator Kennedy’s career and said ‘Senator Kennedy truly understood the value of breaking down barriers for all individuals with disabilities — and understood the value of empowering each single individual with the opportunity to achieve his dreams.”
In 2004, as the National Association of the Deaf’s Director of Law and Advocacy, I had the honor of presenting Senator Kennedy with an award from the NAD and AAPD recognizing “his tireless efforts on behalf of over 28 million deaf and hard of hearing Americans.” The ceremony took place in Boston, Massachusetts on July 26, 2004 at an event marking the 14th anniversary of the ADA.
In a press release at that time, Nancy J. Bloch, NAD CEO remarked “Senator Kennedy has been at the forefront on issues important to the NAD for many years and more than deserves this award from the NAD.”
An excerpt of that press release bears worth repeating:
Kennedy consistently demonstrated his leadership on civil rights issues dating back to his election to the United States Senate in 1962. His accomplishments cannot adequately be summarized in a brief statement. He was a key player in the historic 1973 Rehabilitation Act, which continues to support rehabilitation and independent living for people who are deaf and hard of hearing and also contains the pivotal Section 504 that has proven so important in securing interpreters at public events and in employment interviews.
Kennedy was the key Senate leader on passage of the historic ADA. He also played a pivotal role in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which requires captioning of broadcast and cablecast programming.
Recently, Senator Kennedy supported the NAD advocacy for captioning of television programming and spoke against restrictive proposals that would censor captioned offerings.
In presenting the award, I stated, “there are very few members of Congress who have done more to advance the civil rights and accessibility of deaf and hard of hearing Americans than Senator Kennedy.”
That statement was true then, and is still true today.
On behalf of Purple Communications as well as the deaf and hard of hearing community, I salute you, Senator Kennedy, and thank you for all you have done for us!