NCC marks Americans With Disabilities Act anniversary

The National Constitution Center and the Disability Pride Committee, including Liberty Resources and Vision for Equality, will honor the 22nd anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with a daylong celebration recognizing all that the disability community has accomplished in the past two decades, as well as the continued fight for civil and human rights.

The festivities will take place at the Center on Saturday, July 28, 2012, from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Admission is FREE in honor of the celebration.

“This major milestone serves as a reminder of how ‘We the People’ must include all the people to build a great democracy,” said National Constitution Center President and CEO David Eisner.  “The National Constitution Center, in partnership with Disability Pride, is proud to bring this celebration to a national stage.”

At 11:00 a.m., visitors are invited to a special ceremony honoring a significant new addition to the Center’s main exhibition, The Story of We the People: Justin Dart Jr.’s wheelchair, which he used when flanking President George H.W. Bush during the signing of the ADA bill on July 26, 1990, and during many subsequent advocacy efforts to uphold the ADA and secure the civil rights that all Americans hold sacred.

Considered the “Father of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Justin Dart Jr. stood at the forefront of the international disability rights movement, working tirelessly to ensure equal opportunity and independence for all Americans.  In 1998, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.  Yoshiko Dart, Justin Dart Jr.’s widow, will be present for this moving event, which will include remarks by speakers David Eisner, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center, and Thomas H. Earle, CEO of Liberty Resources.  The ceremony will also feature a live performance of the “ADA Anthem” by Jeff Moyer, the human rights advocate and musician who composed the anthem.

“It is especially fitting on this anniversary celebration that we memorialize the passage of our civil rights law by adding to the National Constitution Center’s permanent collection the wheelchair belonging to the Father of the ADA,” said Thomas H. Earle, CEO of Liberty Resources.

Immediately following the ceremony, a distinguished panel will discuss Justin Dart Jr.’s lasting legacy and their vision of the future for those living with disabilities.  Panelists include Lex Frieden, a preeminent disability activist, leader of the independent living movement, and Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Professor of Rehabilitation at the University of Texas, who will join via robotic telepresence; Cassie James-Holdsworth, Director of National Advocacy & Policy for Liberty Resources; Andy Imparato, Senior Counsel and Disability Policy Director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Janine Bertram Kemp, widow of the late Evan Kemp, who played a key role in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and also was present at the podium during the signing of the ADA bill; Joseph Rogers, Chief Advocacy Officer of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (MHASP), who served on the Congressionally appointed task force on the Rights and Empowerment of People with Disabilities, which helped pass the ADA; and Erik von Schmetterling, former chair of Liberty Resources. Lawrence Carter-Long, Public Affairs Specialist for the National Council on Disability will share highlights of the day internationally via Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #disabilitypride.

From 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., guests can view a photography display on the Grand Hall Overlook, featuring the work of nationally recognized documentary photographers Tom Olin and Harvey Finkle.

Olin is a photojournalist and social documentarian who has captured significant moments of the disability rights movement since 1983.  Finkle is a documentary photographer from Philadelphia who has produced a substantial body of work focused on social, political, and cultural issues.  Both photographers will be on hand to discuss their work with guests.

Throughout the day, visitors can watch demonstrations in front of the Center by the Magee Sixers wheelchair basketball team; enjoy performances by 4 Wheel City of New York City, SPIN Choir, Great Neck Band, Johnny Crescendo, and Timmy Kelly Jr.; and chat with activist Lex Frieden via roaming robotic telepresence.

In addition, visitors can learn about health, wellness, and advocacy issues for the disabled at an information fair featuring organizations such as Vision for Equality, Temple University Institute on Disabilities, Parent to Parent, Disability Rights Network, Adaptive Sports, and Latino Services.  National Constitution Center staff members will lead discussions about the history of the Americans with Disabilities Act and disability rights issues at stake in the 2012 presidential election.  Children and their families also can enjoy arts and crafts activities led by the Independence Arts Studio of Philadelphia.

Starting at 2:30 p.m., visitors can join more than 300 participants in a Disability Pride March beginning at the National Constitution Center and ending in front of the Liberty Bell, where remarks about the Disability Rights movement today will be made by German Parodi, recipient of the Bread & Roses Community Fund Emerging Leader Award.  Following the parade, the celebration will conclude with a special reception featuring food and live entertainment in the Atrium Lobby at Liberty Resources on 7th and Market Streets from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

About the National Constitution Center

The National Constitution Center is the first and only nonprofit, nonpartisan institution devoted to the most powerful vision of freedom ever expressed: the U.S. Constitution.  Located on Independence Mall in Historic Philadelphia, the birthplace of American freedom, the Center illuminates constitutional ideals and inspires active citizenship through a state-of-the-art museum experience, including hundreds of interactive exhibits, films and rare artifacts; must-see feature exhibitions; the internationally acclaimed, 360-degree theatrical production Freedom Rising; and the iconic Signers’ Hall, where visitors can sign the Constitution alongside 42 life-size, bronze statues of the Founding Fathers.  As America’s forum for constitutional dialogue, the Center engages diverse, distinguished leaders of government, public policy, journalism and scholarship in timely public discussions and debates.  The Center also houses the Annenberg Center for Education and Outreach, the national hub for constitutional education, which offers cutting-edge civic learning resources both onsite and online.  Freedom is calling.  Answer it at the National Constitution Center.  For more information, call 215.409.6700 or visit www.constitutioncenter.org.

About Liberty Resources

As Philadelphia’s Center for Independent Living (CIL), Liberty Resources, Inc. advocates with disabled people, individually and collectively, to ensure our civil rights and equal access to all aspects of life in the community.  Founded in 1980 by members of the grassroots advocacy group Disabled in Action, Liberty Resources embraces the principles of self-determination and consumer control – the majority of our governing Board and over 51% of our staff are people with disabilities.  In accordance with the philosophy of the Independent Living Movement, which stemmed from the Disability Rights Movement of the 1970s and begat Centers for Independent Living, LRI offers a menu of wraparound services focused on providing tools and resources to empower people with disabilities to achieve and maintain independent lifestyles.  Visit www.libertyresources.org.

About Vision for Equality

The mission of Vision for Equality Inc. is to assist and empower people with disabilities and their families to seek quality and satisfaction in their lives as well as equal access to supports and services.  Vision is one of the first agencies in the country to develop projects that have families and self-advocates directly monitoring services.  Visit www.visionforequality.org.

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