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Celebrating the 33rd Anniversary of the ADA

By Melissa Allman, Sr. Specialist, Advocacy & Government Relations

Morris Frank and Buddy stand next to President Truman, within a large group photo of men and women standing on the White House lawn.

On Wednesday, July 26, we celebrate the 33rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

This monumental legislation affords people with disabilities the right to equal access to state and local governmental facilities, places of public accommodation (such as stores, restaurants, banks, theaters, and other places people need to access when going about their daily lives), employment, and education.

People with various disabilities who work with service dogs are just one group whose lives have been significantly impacted by this law and the implementing regulations. The work started long ago by people with widely varying types of disabilities. For example, even before white canes were being widely used by blind people, The Seeing Eye, the world’s oldest guide dog school, was founded in 1929 by Dorothy Harrison Eustis and Morris Frank.

When Morris embarked on his return trip to the United States with Buddy, Dorothy told Morris that his Seeing Eye dog would do him no good if he couldn’t take her anywhere and Morris took that seriously. Through education, advocacy, and sheer determination, he gained access to federal railroads in the 1930’s and not long after, boarded a United Airlines flight, becoming the first person to fly with a service animal on a commercial flight. Morris met with U.S. Presidents, including Harry Truman, to advocate for employment and access rights.

Guide dog handlers and other people who work with service animals continue to face ongoing access challenges, but let’s take a moment to remember the hard work of those with disabilities who worked tirelessly for the laws and regulations that protect handlers’ rights to access today.