We Signed the Americans with Disabilities Act

Former Senator Tom Harkin’s Speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention

Remarks as prepared for delivery


Twenty-six years ago today, our nation won a hard-fought battle to end discrimination for over 50 million people when we signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ADA.

Today, I’m proud to say the ADA has helped so many share in America’s promise. We are better prepared to give all children access to a quality education, help our wounded warriors when they come home, and support our aging population.

We got this done because the disability community knew what Hillary Clinton knows: we are stronger together. We brought together Republicans and Democrats, businesses, and advocates. We stood up to fear and irrational prejudices. We are a better nation because of the ADA. But we still have a way to go to build a truly inclusive America.

When, 26 years later, 70 percent of adults with disabilities aren’t in the workforce, it’s time to take action. That’s why Hillary Clinton wants to ensure people with disabilities are judged by their potential and have the tools to secure competitive integrated employment.

When, 26 years later, employers are still allowed to pay people with disabilities below minimum wage, it’s time to change the law! Hillary Clinton will fight to eliminate the subminimum wage, and ensure that a fair day’s work earns a fair day’s pay.

When, 26 years later, Medicaid still keeps people with disabilities in nursing homes, it’s time to pass Sen. Chuck Schumer’s Disability Integration Act, so our fellow Americans can live where they want — a bill Hillary Clinton will sign into law as president!

Only one person seeking the presidency understands the disability community’s phrase, “nothing about us without us.” As president, Hillary Clinton will bring people with disabilities to the table for a more inclusive America.

I learned sign language from my brother, Frank, who was deaf. I want to teach you a beautiful sign now. Take your hands, intertwine the fingers, and move them in a circle. This is the sign for “America!”

We are all connected. No one is left out in the constant circle of life in America. This is the America we all want, disabled and non-disabled, and it is the America President Hillary Clinton will fight for, where every person is respected, valued, and treated with dignity.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated DemConvention’s story.