Disabilities law was among Bush’s great achievements
December 17, 2018

Q:  I spent hours watching television of the coverage of the memorial service for the late President George H.W. Bush. As a caregiver of a disabled spouse would you remind people of the role the late president had in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act?

A: There are past U.S. presidents who will be remembered for their achievements in the areas of foreign affairs, health care, civil rights, stabilizing the country’s economy or helping to bring the end to world conflicts. President George H.W. Bush personally considered the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act as one of his most important accomplishments.

The ADA was passed by Congress and then signed into law on July 26, 1990. His commitment to this legislation actually began while he served as President Ronald Reagan’s vice president. The law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in regards to employment, transportation, schools and access to public or private places open to the general public. President Bush stated the law was essential to “remove the physical barriers we have created and the social barriers that we have accepted”. He felt strongly disabled individuals are entitled to the same opportunities as every other person to engage in all aspects of society.

Our 41st president’s commitment to this legislation went beyond his role as the nation’s leader. His close friendship with Sen. Robert Dole, a disabled veteran, and the impact of family experience made this a personal issue. He most likely did not realize in his later life how both he and his beloved wife would benefit from the positive changes that have taken place since the enactment of the ADA. Their confinement to wheelchairs in the last years of life and his dependence on a trained service dog made it possible for them to continue interacting with society. The picture of his faithful Sully lying beside the casket of his master brought a lump in the throat and a tear to the eye of many who saw the image.

The ADA was the inspiration to other nations in their attempts to pass similar laws. While those of us who work in the aging and disability industry acknowledge there are still barriers to overcome we are acutely aware of how much our consumers have benefited from President George H.W. Bush’s commitment to their cause.


Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.

Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services.

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