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Americans with Disabilities

The National Archives holds many records that relate to American citizens with disabilities.  From personal letters to historic legislation, these records provide insight into efforts over the past century to establish programs and to protect the rights of people with disabilities.

This page presents a selection of these records from the holdings of the Presidential Libraries. 

Americans with Disabilities Act

Signed on July 26, 1990, the ADA was the world's first comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities. This Act inspired other nations to pass their own civil rights laws for people with disabilities.

More about the ADA from the George Bush Presidential Library

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the March of Dimes

In 1921, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was thirty-nine years old, he contracted infantile paralysis, more commonly known as polio. Initially the disease affected nearly his entire body, eventually he was unable to stand or walk without assistance.

In 1927 Roosevelt formed the Warm Springs Georgia Foundation. This organization later became known as the March of Dimes and with the help of many organizations and ordinary citizens, it raised millions of dollars to combat polio.   Jonas Salk, with funding from the March of Dimes, developed a vaccine that stemmed the spread of this disease in 1955.

More from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library

President John F. Kennedy and Programs for Intellectual Disabilities

When John F. Kennedy began his administration, intellectual disabilities were a neglected issue. Few scientists were researching its causes, and even fewer doctors and educators were trained to support people with intellectual disabilities and their families. The Kennedy family had a personal connection to the issue; President Kennedy's sister Rosemary, sixteen months his junior, was born with intellectual disabilities.

At the urging of his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Kennedy made this issue a priority for his administration.

More from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

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