“We’ve come so far as a country since passage of the Americans with Disability Act. However, the work is far from over. Economic self-sufficiency, that's the bone in my throat. That's the thing that we just haven't really accomplished," former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat of Iowa, told over 500 leaders in disability inclusion Sunday night November 1st at the inaugural 2015 Ruderman Inclusion Summit.
At the Summit, the Foundation honored Senator Harkin with the Morton E. Ruderman Award for his lifelong dedication to disability inclusion, including his steadfast work on the historic ADA bill. As part of the award, a $100,000 donation will be made to the Harkin Institute of Public Policy at Citizen Engagement at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa to help further tackle the most pressing issues facing those with disabilities.
The historic ADA bill is, to this day, the most sweeping legislation the United States has ever seen for people living with disabilities. Enacted a quarter-century ago, the ADA changed the landscape of America by requiring buildings and transportation to be wheelchair-accessible, and providing workplace accommodations for people with disabilities.
“Before the Americans with Disability Act, I heard stories of individuals who had to crawl on their hands and knees to go up a flight of stairs, who couldn’t ride a bus because there wasn’t a lift, and individuals couldn’t attend a baseball game with their own family due to the lack of accessibility at the ballpark. Millions of Americans were denied access to their own communities – and the American dream. I saw this firsthand in the life of my older brother Frank, who was deaf. He was the inspiration for my sponsoring the ADA,” said Senator Harkin.
“I am very proud to accept the Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion because I am committed to making life more equitable for people with disabilities just as Morton was when he created the Ruderman Family Foundation. We must continue the fight for policies that promote equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities and their families.”
The inaugural Ruderman Inclusion Summit has seen over 500 activists from the field of disability inclusion, come together to launch a network of disability advocates from around the world, and set the agenda for building towards a more inclusive society.
“The Ruderman Family Foundation is proud to award the 2015 Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion to former Senator Tom Harkin. This $100,000 award is presented each year to an individual who has furthered the inclusion of people with disabilities in our society,” said Foundation President Jay Ruderman. “Senator Harkin, throughout his career in Congress, has done more than almost any American to further the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities in the United States. He is most deserving of this honor and we are proud to associate my father’s name with his leadership.”