The Making of the ADA – Week Three

Memories from the 10th Anniversary

The Disability Rights Leadership Series

Week Three:
C. Boyden Gray, Ralph G. Neas, and Arlene Mayerson (Part 2)


C. Boyden Gray

“Oh gosh…[the ADA is] one of the two or three things that I’ll be most proud of when look back on my life.”

Arlene Mayerson Part 2 of 2

“…I remember one late night, three o’clock in the morning conversation with Evan Kemp, where he told me that, in Washington, you’re in as long as you’re winning. And so, by the time we got to the ADA…we were winning.”

Ralph Neas

“…Something happened…that really ushered in my period of activism with respect to disability rights. That’s when I came down with Guillain-Barre syndrome, also known as French polio, and spent six months in a hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and spending about three months of that time in the intensive care unit totally paralyzed on a respirator unable to breathe or talk. And over the period of the next year or two coming to a much better understanding of disability issues and making a vow once I got out of the hospital to do what I could do on a personal and professional basis with respect to disability issues..”

DREDF is pleased to present the next in our series of historic ADA interviews recorded in 1999 and 2000. This week, we feature interviews with C. Boyden Gray, White House Counsel to President George H. W. Bush during enactment of the ADA, Ralph G. Neas, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and Arlene Mayerson (Part 2), DREDF’s directing attorney.

As the country celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we pause for a moment to take stock of the impact the ADA has had on our lives and our communities over the past quarter century and to recognize both the sung and the unsung heroes who worked tirelessly to make the dream of full civil rights for people with disabilities a legal reality.

In an effort to capture the day–to–day memories of some of those who witnessed and influenced this extraordinary historic event, the University of San Francisco and the
video production company, Access Video, collaborated with DREDF during 1999 and 2000 to interview some of the people who were central to the law’s passage.

Just as no one person, group, or organization can represent the vast diversity that comprises "people with disabilities," this project could not adequately credit
everyone who worked to make the vision of the ADA a reality. The voices preserved in this small collection are few in number. They are the voices of those who were privileged to be in power, or who had access to those in power. We want to share them because they bear witness to how our communities’ landmark civil rights law was fought for in our nation’s capital, in rooms that
were reached by literal — not figurative — "halls of power.”

There were, and are, many other stories about people and moments in time that we need to preserve if we are to have a more complete history of the disability civil rights movement, and a deeper understanding of our present and future. As the 15–year gap between filming
and release attests, we’re fortunate that technology social media have made story–telling infinitely more accessible and diverse.

Copies of the unedited interview collection reside in the Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement (DRILM) collection at the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, as well as with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF).

We wish to extend our deep appreciation to the volunteers who donated their time to edit and caption this archival material.