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‘This is a civil rights movement that needs to have its due:' 25 years after the ADA

Starkloff Disability Institute

It has been 25 years since the historic Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted by the U.S. Congress and St. Louis will join cities across the country in commemorating its passage. 

This Saturday, the celebration in Forest Park will include food trucks, a job fair, a march, the ADA Legacy Project Freedom Bus, and special speakers such as former U.S. Congressman Tony Coehlo, the primary House sponsor of the ADA in 1990.

Colleen Starkloff, the co-director of the Starkloff Disability Institute, told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh that the enactment of the ADA has changed physical built spaces such as museums and public places immensely.

“There’s hardly any place I go in where I would worry about if Max could go in with me,” Starkloff said of her late husband, who was a pioneer for independent living for the disabled and quadriplegic himself. “In the early days, before the ADA, there were so many places we couldn’t go without calling ahead and checking to see if we could even get in there.”

Now, Starkloff has new goals for the ADA going forward.  

“I think that the as-yet-unfulfilled promised of ADA is in the area of employment and economic independence,” Starkloff said. “Our people are the poorest of the poor and I think ADA holds the promise of employment for all people with disabilities.” 

The disabled population is the largest minority in the United States and growing fast, said Starkloff. Saturday’s event will serve to draw attention to both the history and the future of ADA and people with disabilities across the United States. 

One of the most striking features of the celebration will be a 48-foot interactive traveling museum, the Disability Rights Museum on Wheels, which will be parked at the Missouri History Museum during the celebration. On Friday, you'll also be able to catch the bus in front of Centene Corporation, at 7700 Forsyth. 

As far as we’re concerned, disability rights are a civil right and this is a civil rights movement that needs to have its due. - Colleen Starkoff

Alison Gilkey, the co-curator of the museum and producer of the PBS documentaries “Lives Worth Living” and “The Great Fight for Disability Rights,” said that the museum, which is completely accessible, has been traveling the United States for a year bringing awareness to the history of disabled populations in the United States and issues facing the group going forward. 

“Our story is an important story,” Starkloff said. “Our movement is part of American history and it is not told as that. As far as we’re concerned, disability rights are a civil right and this is a civil rights movement that needs to have its due.”

Related Event

“ADA 25 STL”

Saturday, October 3, from 10 a.m. -4 p.m.

Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. 

"St. Louis on the Air" discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter and join the conversation at @STLonAir.

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.
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