Celebrating the Annniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Today is a big day for our family. On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Supported by Democrats and Republicans, this legislation changed the world for millions of people including the life our son John and our entire family. The ADA recognized the contributions that people with disabilities make and gave them access to all aspects of public life. 

President George H. W. Bush Signs theADA

Three three years later, we can speak of the broad societal changes, but it is important to recognize the impact this legislation has had on individual lives. Without the ADA, my youngest son and business partner, John Cronin, who has Down syndrome, would not be able to lead the full life he does today. He would not have had access to the public education he received, to the therapies that helped him move from being non-verbal to becoming a keynote speaker. He has gone on to be an entrepreneur who co-founded the world’s largest sock store, John’s Crazy Socks, which employs many people with differing abilities. All of this was made possible by the ADA. 

Forcing Change 

The ADA was not an overnight success. Activists like the recently passed Judy Heumann, the “Mother of the Disability Rights Movement,” along with Ed Roberts, Kitty Cone and Brad Lomax helped drive change. A pivotal moment in the grassroots effort to demand equal rights and access for people with disabilities came on March 13, 1990, when more than 1,000 people marched from the White House to the Capitol, where dozens of people threw down their canes and climbed out of wheelchairs to crawl up the Capitol steps. They would no longer be denied equal access. 

Judy Heumann leading a protest for disability rights

In 1988, the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency under the leadership of Executive Director Lex Frieden recommended that Congress pass legislation to guarantee the rights of people with a disability. This, along with massive grassroots efforts like the crawl up the Capitol steps, led to action by the Congress. 

The Capitol Crawl, a protest for disability rights

American Leaders Coming Together for All Americans

Today, we often seem to have two Americas or even more as our leaders drive wedges between us and shout at each other. It was not always so. Elected leaders from across the political spectrum came together to forge the ADA and they fought for years to make it happen.

In April 1988, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Senator Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, acting on the recommendation of the National Council on Disability, introduced the initial version of the Americans with Disabilities Act. They held public hearings to call attention to the issue.Judy Heumann speaking out on disability rights

Senator Harkin reached across the aisle to Republican Orrin Hatch to co-sponsor legislation and they received fiery support from Senator Ted Kennedy. Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, Democrat Tony Coelho of California and Republican Silvio Conte of Massachusetts introduced the House version of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Justin Dart from the National Council on Disability traveled the country rallying support for the legislation and Judy Heumann led grassroots protests and gatherings to grow support.

It took two years before the ADA passed both Houses and the President signed it into law.

John with Senator Tom Harkin

John and I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with Senator Harkin, Congressman Coelho, and Judy Heumann to thank them for their leadership and for the difference they had made in so many lives. And John had the opportunity to thank his “Sock Buddy,” President George H. W. Bush for signing the law that made John’s Crazy Socks possible. We truly stand on the shoulders of giants. 

The Work Is Not Done 

Signing the bill into law led to profound changes, but the work is not over. Activists continue to fight against barriers and can use the ADA for support as they sue to bring about its full promise. There have been amendments to the original bill as recently as 2008 to expand the definition of a disability. 

John at Capitol Hill

Just last week, John and I travelled to Capitol Hill to meet with legislators to urge them to pass a series of bills that would improve access to employment for people with disabilities and remove barriers that prevent them from retaining their earnings. 

The fight for true inclusion continues, but we have come this far because of the men and women that made it possible with the passing of the ADA.

About John’s Crazy Socks

John’s Crazy Socks was inspired by John Lee Cronin, a young man with Down syndrome, and his love of colorful and fun socks—what he calls his “crazy socks.” He and his father, Mark X. Cronin, started the company as a social enterprise with a mission of Spreading Happiness™. With more than 4,000 socks, John’s Crazy Socks is now the world’s largest sock store. More than half their employees have a differing ability, and their Giving Back program has raised over $625,000 for charity partners like the Special Olympics, the National Down Syndrome Society, and the Autism Society of America. Most of all, they are Spreading Happiness™. 

For more information about John’s Crazy Socks, visit our webpage, Facebook page, Instagram account, TikTok or YouTube channel. You can also contact us at 631-760-5625 or via email at service@johnscrazysocks.com.