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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Americans living with disabilities are remembering President George H.W. Bush for his role in passing the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA, which was passed in 1990, protects the civil rights of people with disabilities to get an education, to work and to function freely in society.
One woman who fought for the law credits former President Bush for granting independence and freedom from discrimination to all Americans.
Judy Heumann has made it her life’s mission to fight for the rights of disabled Americans, like herself.
She’ll never forget the day Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The law bans discrimination based on disability and requires certain public physical accommodations.
“We must remove the physical barriers we’ve created and the social barriers,” said Bush at the time.
“It was a major turning point in the lives of disabled people,” said Judy Heumann.
Heumann developed polio as a toddler and has relied on a wheelchair ever since. She’s been fighting for the disabled for decades and served in the Clinton and Obama administrations.
But, she credits Bush for standing up to the United States businesses who claimed installing physical accommodations to assist the disabled would cost too much.
“He really understood the barriers that we faced and he wanted to put an end to it,” said Heumann.
Disabled Americans have been paying their respects to Bush, who at the end of his own life, used a wheelchair.
The president’s service dog, Sully, joined them in the Capitol Rotunda.
“I think he was not embarrassed or ashamed of having a disability,” said Heumann.
Bush left a lasting legacy that helped millions with disabilities live with dignity.
The act’s main purpose was to ensure people with disabilities have the same rights as everyone else.
The act was amended in 2008 by Bush’s son, former President George W. Bush, which broadened the definition of a disability, and extended rights to a greater number of people.
In 2015, George H.W. Bush spoke commemorating the 25th anniversary of the act saying, “Something I’m very proud of, perhaps proudest of, when I was president.”