Happy Birthday ADA

On July 26 1990 President George H. W. Bush on the south lawn of the White House, signed into law the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), the most sweeping civil rights legislation of all time. As we approach the 20th anniversary of the signing I am not struck by the enormity of the impact on American life for all Americans because of this important piece of legislation but I am still in awe of the leaders of the disability movement at the time and how I was and am still humbled by their courage and conviction. So while I reflect on Justin Dart, Evan Kemp, Judy Heumann, Ed Roberts, Pat Wright and others I can’t help but think of the pioneers and people who impacted my life in the Pacific Northwest. My uncle Art comes to mind first. Art Larson worked for DVR (the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation) for many years and rose to be fairly high up in the central office. I got my first taste of VR at the Seattle office in the old Orpheum Building adjacent to the Orpheum Theatre – the sight now of the Westin hotel towers. I remember it was just before the Monorail so that dates me somewhat so I’m guessing I was 12 or 13 years old at the time. He invited me to his office to show me around but got a great kick out of taking me across the street to the health food store to get a glass of carrot juice and apparently my expression revealed my instant distaste for the elixir and loved to tell the story of my experience. He swore by its medicinal properties. Uncle Art was introduced to DVR as a recipient of services. He contracted polio while attending the University studying to become a pharmacist. Following treatment VR assisted my uncle to find his first job working as a technician for KOMO radio. While touring his office he pointed out his rolodex that was brim full on names and he said that this was the envy of the Seattle office because my uncle had this tremendous collection of contacts in the business community. But what my uncle taught me was that people who were paralyzed had the same aspirations as everyone else and could do the work only they had to be super at the job and needed to put forth tremendous effort because of the physical challenges. I guess why I am so maudlin is that my uncle is celebrating his 97 birthday and is very ill and last weekend while visiting friends in Oregon I ran across a brief obit and invite to Margaret Reavis-Larson’s memorial notice in the newspaper. Margaret was the founder of Mid-Valley Workshop and Rehabilitation Centers program. I worked for them in the late ‘80’s and she was on the board when I worked there. She was a visionary who could motivate people to join in the effort. She was on the same caliber as Jan Loutzenhiser the first Exec of Morningside. Jan was a dear woman who was exceptional. A very bright woman who also motivated people to do their best and always thought first of the people we served. Evelyn McBurney, Mike Hatch the founder of Work Opportunities (an old boss of mine) and of course my father Ed ranks up there as a pioneer and visionary with the work he did at Custom Industries. My father would “invite” me to join him during breaks while I attended college to move some machinery or set up some work station for a new project at Custom. I suspect that is how I got involved in this unusual business. So here’s to the early pioneers both local and nationally who made it sure that people with disabilities could have the same opportunity as all citizens.

CEO Viewpoint is published by Jim Larson, CEO Morningside

This space is intended to share my thoughts and update the community on issues concerning Morningside and its clients as well sharing inspirational employment stories.

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