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KU to commemorate 30th anniversary of ADA with internationally recognized disability rights leader, events and programs

Friday, July 17, 2020

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas will host lifelong disability rights champion and leader Judith Heumann as part of its celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA became law on July 26, 1990. Heumann’s visit coincides with KU’s annual October celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

“ADA 30 – Nothing About Us Without Us – A Celebration with Judith Heumann,” scheduled for Oct. 28-29, will feature a keynote by Heumann and additional programming to be announced in fall 2020. Events may be held virtually if necessary due to COVID-19. The two-day celebration is organized by the KU ADA Resource Center for Equity and Accessibility and 44 other campus and community partners. Learn more at

Additional KU events, programs and media marking the anniversary in the summer and fall:

  • The ADA at 30: “Let the Shameful Wall of Exclusion Come Down,” a virtual panel organized by the George and Barbara Bush Foundation at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 21. The panel, moderated by Judy Woodruff, managing editor and anchor of "PBS NewsHour," includes Audrey Coleman, associate director of the Dole Institute of Politics at KU.
  • A virtual panel featuring leaders in disability policy and research, 3 p.m. Sept. 9. The panel, “Look Back, Look Forward: The ADA at 30,” will be offered by the KU Life Span Institute, which has conducted research to improve the lives of people with disabilities for 60 years. Featured speakers are Jean Hall, director of the Institute for Health and Disability Policy Studies and professor in the KU Department of Applied Behavioral Science; Lex Frieden, professor of biomedical informatics and professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston; Anjali Forber-Pratt, assistant professor at the Department of Human & Organizational Development at Vanderbilt University; and Rebecca Cokley, director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress. “ADA30” will be moderated by Michael Wehmeyer, chair of the KU Department of Special Education, Ross and Marianna Beach Distinguished Professor in Special Education, and director and senior scientist at the Beach Center on Disability.
  • “ADA at 30,” a collection of media to mark the anniversary, will be published this fall on the KU Life Span Institute’s website. Materials include:
    • Interviews conducted with individuals who describe how the ADA has changed lives and who look ahead to what needs to be addressed in future legislation.
    • A collection of recent Life Span Institute disability-related research.
    • A syllabus prepared by the KU Department of American Studies featuring books, television shows, films and websites about the ADA and people with disabilities.
  • The School of Social Welfare’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Program will host events investigating the intersections of racial and disability justice. The 2020 DEI Fellows are Genilda Journey and Diana Lady, both of the KU Edwards Campus. Journey will research and present on “The Correlation Between the Mental Health of African American Inmates and Recidivism Rates,” and Lady will research and present on the topic of “Migrant Farmworkers and Disabilities: Creation of a Kansas Farmworker Toolkit.” Both fellows will present findings next spring semester, dates to be chosen. More events are in process, so check in with the School of Social Welfare at

More on Judith Heumann

For four decades, Heumann has worked with a wide range of activists, non-governmental organizations and governments to develop human rights legislation and policy benefiting individuals with disabilities. She was instrumental in drafting several major pieces of disability rights legislation, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Heumann served in the administration of President Barack Obama as the first special adviser for international disability rights at the U.S. Department of State and in the Clinton administration as the assistant secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services in the Department of Education. She was the World Bank’s first adviser on disability and development.

“Judith has been a transformative disability rights leader in the United States and internationally since the 1970s and is the most influential disability rights leader in the world,” said Catherine Johnson, director of the KU ADA Resource Center for Equity & Accessibility. “Her visit marks a pivotal moment for the University of Kansas in its mission of creating a proactive disability inclusive culture. I am excited for Judith to share her journey in international disability rights advocacy with our community.”

Heumann said she looked forward to marking the anniversary with KU.

“I am excited to connect with the KU and Lawrence communities and am honored KU invited me to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act with them. There is so much work yet to do, and I am made hopeful by communities such as these.”

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Students with intellectual disabilities are participating in KU undergraduate programs through a grant-funded KU special education program
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