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Toward Independence and the Vision of an ADA - Part 11

Deciding on the Title of the Report

A significant issue that did not get resolved at the November meeting, but certainly had to be resolved before the report was formally adopted by the Council, was the title of the report. The “Eradicating Barriers to Opportunity” formulation that I had introduced as the working title in October and had subsequently become disenchanted with, was still on the document during and after the November Council meeting. Before, during, and after the meeting, various people, including Council members, made comments indicating that they were not pleased with the title, but no one suggested a better one, and no member of the Council moved a substitute title at the meeting. Ultimately, the Council members made it clear that they would like a different title, but were not going to decide what it was. In December as we were deciding on the report’s layout and preparing to have the cover designed, it became critical to settle on the title. Lex said that we had to decide. Of the various versions I came up with, I liked best the one that we were using as an internal section heading: “Toward Independence and Equality for Citizens with Disabilities.” Lex’s reaction was that we needed something short and simple. At the Council meeting, a P.R. person had suggested an abbreviated variation on that section heading – “Toward Independence and Motivation.” Lex and I agreed that the word “motivation” was not right. It was a weak word that seemed paternalistic and off-putting; people with disabilities did not have a shortage of motivation and they certainly would not appreciate the Council saying that they did. Moreover, the recommendations in the report were substantial legislative proposals for improving federal programs for people with disabilities; they were not a form of pep talk. Finally, Lex said, “Why don’t we just call it Toward Independence?” And that’s what we did. The new title appeared on a December 5 draft of the report.

“Toward Independence” accurately captured the Council’s view that facilitating independence through equal participation was the overriding objective of its recommendations. It also signified NCD's endorsement of the independent living philosophy widely espoused in the disability community, and the importance of independent living centers and services, addressed specifically in the report in the topic paper on "Community-Based Services for Independent Living." And the word “toward” indicated that the independence goals were yet to be reached, but provided a policy direction for recommended future federal initiatives – a destination toward which the country should proceed. I did not recognize until later that “Toward Independence” echoed the subtitle of Frank Bowe's 1980 book, Rehabilitating America: Toward Independence for Disabled and Elderly People.

Shortly after the Toward Independence title was adopted, I began to try out a jest about a hidden meaning of the new title. As I have a notoriously bad sense of direction (and perhaps an equally bad sense of humor) and the Council’s offices were located in the FAA Building on Independence Avenue, I started telling people that the title of the report was intended to remind me how to get back to the office – just go “toward Independence.”

Continue on to Part 12: Preclearance of the 1986 Report?; Layout, Packaging, and Final Touches