Residents of Duluth and Superior gathered Tuesday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA.
“The ADA is truly an important civil rights moment for our nation,” Duluth Mayor Don Ness told the crowd of several dozen people assembled between the Duluth City Hall and the St. Louis County Courthouse. “It’s hard to believe that our country didn’t make this commitment earlier than 1990.”
The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and ensures that they have equal opportunities in employment, transportation and other aspects of daily life. The Road to Freedom Bus, which is touring the country to celebrate the ADA and its accomplishments, served as Ness’ backdrop on Tuesday.
“The progress that we’ve seen over the last 25 years is a good start, but we still have a long way to go to ensure that all Americans have the same access,” Ness said.
Ness then read a proclamation from the city of Duluth pledging its commitment to the ADA, which was signed into law in July 1990.
The Road to Freedom Bus already has been to more than 30 states. John Nousaine, director of North Country Independent Living in Superior, spent a week with the bus crew and helped with driving. He made stops in Billings, Great Falls, Helena and Missoula in Montana, and New York Mills, Minn..
Later Tuesday, the bus traveled to Superior, where attendees could view the work of Tom Olin, a photographer who has chronicled the fight for disability rights for the past 40 years.
Olin, 64, has dyslexia and said he understands discrimination both first-hand, and from working at a rehabilitation hospital. That, he said, inspired his career.
“I got to see how people could not be friends with each other because things were not accessible. If you had a friend in a chair, it usually meant you couldn’t go to the movie theater or you couldn’t take the bus to the museum together,” said Olin. “A lot of people had to stay home.”
Olin has made the bus his home and said he plans to continue to tour the country raising awareness for as long as he can.
“There’s a group of us that want to keep our history… Part of it is trying to preserve this history. Part of it is being a backdrop to celebrations for local people,” he said.