Introducing Friends of the Institute

As a tribute to Senator Kennedy's 47-year career, gifts of $47 and up recognize you as a Friend of the Institute.

Senator Kennedy Speeches

September 7, 1989 | Floor of the United States Senate

Ending Segregation and Discrimination Against Disabled Americans

Senator Kennedy was a chief sponsor, together with Senator Tom Harkin, of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which ensures that disabled Americans are able to live productive lives free from discrimination.

The Americans with Disabilities Act will end the American apartheid. The act has the potential to become one of the great civil rights laws of our generation. Disabled citizens deserve the opportunity to work for a living, ride a bus, have access to public and commercial buildings, and do all the other things that the rest of us take for granted. Mindless physical barriers and outdated social attitudes have made them second class citizens for too long. This legislation is a bill of rights for the disabled, and America will be a better and fairer nation because of it.

Today’s action by the Senate marks an historic step in the long journey to complete the unfinished business of America and bring full civil rights and fair opportunity to all our citizens. In a sense, this legislation is an emancipation proclamation for the disabled, and America will be a better, fairer, and stronger nation because of it.

43 million disabled men, women, and children will benefit from our action. For too long, they have been invisible Americans – denied opportunity, victimized by prejudice, excluded from everyday activities of society.

Our message to America today is that disabled people are not unable. With all the challenges facing the country, we cannot afford to ignore the talent of the disabled, or neglect the skills they have to offer.

Mindless physical barriers and outdated social attitudes have made them second class citizens for too long. Now, with this legislation, they will have a fair chance to participate in the mainstream of American life. This is a proud day in the history of civil rights. It is difficult to believe that this Congress will enact a more far-reaching or more important bill.

Additional Resources

  • Senator Kennedy on Republicans and Minimum wage

    “When does the greed stop?”, Senator Kennedy asked in an impassioned speech on the Senate floor on January 25, 2007.

  • Interview with Madeleine K. Albright

    Madeleine Albright discusses Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, the Middle East, and President William J. Clinton’s relationship with his foreign policy team and other foreign leaders.

  • Serve America Act

    In 2009, Senator Kennedy and Senator Hatch introduced the Serve America Act. Kennedy, battling brain cancer, attended and delivered remarks at the bill signing with President Obama.