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About This Website

Welcome to the “Burgdorf on Disability Rights” website, ADAchronicles.org.

I’ve been fortunate and privileged to have had a front-row seat at what turns out to be one of the most important social movements in the history of the United States and, perhaps, in the world – the Disability Rights Movement. In my career since the early 1970s, I witnessed and participated in many first-ever events that built on one another, eventually culminating in my writing the original draft of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and playing a pivotal role in getting the ADA enacted. The website chronicles my involvement in the disability rights movement and the remarkable advocates I’ve encountered, and gives the inside account of the extraordinary and sometimes stormy events and process by which the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was proposed, passed by the Congress, and signed into law. It also tells the personal story of a boy from the Midwest who contracted polio at 13 months, lived in poverty for the bulk of his early years (My Roots & Disability), went to law school, and pursued a legal career in disability rights that has lasted nearly a half-century.

Why this Website?

  1. Interpret and preserve history;
  2. Tell stories;
  3. Present essays on critical topics and profiles of notable individuals
  4. Set the record straight; and
  5. Make available critical documents not found anywhere else.

The Stories and Essays include colorful, anecdotal stories that, hopefully, are engaging reads for a broad audience; and essays on important topics, intended to set the record straight and to provide insights and perspectives on disability rights and ADA issues that I have gained during my career in disability rights law.

The other pages of this site comprise an enlightening inside narrative (including historical details) on events and people at the center of the Disability Rights Movement, the development and enactment of the ADA (The Making of the ADA), and the effects of that law on American society (ADA 1990 & Beyond).

I am also happy to share with you, under the Key Documents heading, what I consider to be a treasure trove of one-of-a-kind papers and records, such as my first draft of the original ADA bill, a memorandum suggesting the name “Americans with Disabilities Act” for the legislation, various drafts-in-progress of the ADA bills in the 100th and 101st Congresses, some attacks by opponents, and various explanations and defenses of the ADA proposals.

Website Accessibility

Accessibility of our website is a priority. We have made every effort to meet or exceed Section 508 standards and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) so that this website is accessible to and usable by everyone. Please see our Accessibility Statement and the Key Documents pages. Should you encounter difficulties in using this website, please contact us at info@adachronicles.org. Thank you.

A Work-in-Progress!

This website has sections that are not yet complete. It is a dynamic work-in-progress, spanning my early years with a disability to law school and the beginning of my career, to the beginning of the disability rights movement and my litigation and advocacy activities, and then on to my experiences with the making of the ADA and its impact once enacted. This website will be frequently updated and revised. Please sign-up for updates on our Home page.

A Caveat

I am aware that my perspectives on the events and characters I discuss on this website belong to me and are not the only perspectives or the last word. I have tried and will try to tell in a frank and honest way my truth about what I have witnessed and participated in. I have consulted my basement full of boxes of materials I have accumulated over the years, as well as information available in libraries and on the internet, to double-check my recollections, to reconcile conflicting accounts, and to nail down uncertainties or fill in gaps. I fully expect, however, that some out there may have differing views on matters I cover. Most lawyers recognize that even first-person, eyewitness accounts of events often differ sharply. And where, as here, complex social and political dynamics are involved, the prospect of differing takes on issues and events is greatly magnified.

Ultimately, no one person can claim to have witnessed the totality of the birth and flowering of the disability rights movement and of the negotiations and congressional proceedings that led to the proposal and passage of the ADA. Though I have been involved in the things I describe in this website, I know that I am not conversant with every event or effort that contributed to the movement and the law.

I urge others to formulate and publish their own informed and accurate accounts of the disability rights movement and the ADA. I am heartened by the thought that this site may encourage others to tell their own stories. No doubt there may be mistakes and inaccuracies on the website, which are totally unintentional and I hope are few. I will try to identify and correct them.