Audio Transcription

Just to the right of this exhibit is a sign that reads –

Archival display a gift from the Wittern XXXXX

A sign above this exhibit reads People with Disabilities.

This exhibit presents from right to left. It is 14 feet long and 7 feet tall.

It has a grey background and is divided into three vertical sections.

At the top of the first section is a large color photo that blends into the grey background. The photo shows of a group of United States Senators smiling as they hold up white t-shirts with a circular logo that says Year of the ADA.

The caption reads

Senator Harkin celebrates the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act with fellow co-sponsors and disability rights advocates. Pictured left to right are John McCain, Orrin Hatch, Steny Hoyer, Tom Harkin and Ted Kennedy.

Black title text reads Breaking Barriers and Opening Doors

The text below reads:

Inspired by his brother Frank, who had been deaf from an early age, Senator Tom Harkin made expanding the rights of persons with disabilities hi life’s work. It was one of his top priorities in Congress and he became a leading advocate for disability rights. Senator Harkin was the Senate author of the Amaericans with Disabilities Act. The ADA changed the landscape of America by requiring buildings and transportation to be wheelchair accessible, and to provide workplace accommodations for people with disabilities. It transformed the landscape and culture. Beyond the ADA, Senator Harkin stood as an unwavering ally and advocate for people with disabilities, championing numerous additional bills that aimed to fully realize the four goals of the ADA. He always insisted that people with disabilities be included when legislation is drafted and that they are partners in decision-making when laws are implemented.

Below that text is another large photo that blends into the grey background. This color photo shows Senator Harkin smiling with his arm around his brother Frank who is also smiling.

Next to the photo is a quote from Senator Harkin that reads

With the passage of the ADA, we as a society make a pledge that every child with a disability will have the opportunity to maximize his or her potential. The doors are open and the barriers are coming down.

The quote caption reads Floor Speech on Final Passage of the ADA, July 13 1990.

To the left is a plexiglass box displaying 3 pieces of paper.

The first is a copy of the Americans with Disabilities Act signed by President George HW Bush.

An information card next to the Act reads:

American with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law on July 26, 1990. It is organized into five titles:

Title One: Employment

Prohibits employers from discriminating against a qualified individual because of a disability.

Title Two: Public Entities and Public Transportation

Ensures that people with disabilities have equal access to state and local government services and programs, including public transportation

Title Three: Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities

Prohibits discrimination in places that are open to the public like resaurants, movie theaters, hotels, grocery stores and recreational facililities.

Title Four: Telecommunications

Addresses changes to telecommunications made to accommodate various disabilities, including telecommunications relay services and closed captioning for public service announcements.

Title Five: Miscellaneous

Works to establish regulations that are not discussed in other titles.

Below is a letter to Senator Harkin from President Bush.

On white paper with the words The White House centered at the top of the page. Below is the date July 26, 1990.

The typewritten letter reads

Dear Tom

Today I was pleased to sign into law S. 933, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Enactment of this landmark legislation opends the doors of opportunity to millions of Americans who will now begin to be able to realize their highest hopes, ambitions and dreams.

This sweeping legislation guarantees that Americans with disabilities will enjoy full civil rights protection with respect to employment, transportation, places of public accommodation, public services and communications.

This month we observe the 216th anniversary of the signing of our Declaration of Independence. I can think of no better way to celebrate this occasion by our Founding Fathers than by enacting this declaration of independence for Americans with disabilities.

In that spirit and in recognition of the outstanding contribution you made to this legislation, I would like to have the enclosed pen commemorating the signing into law of this truly historic Act.

Sincerely, George Bush

A small sign below the letter reads:

Letter from President Gworge HW Bush to Senator Tom Harkin July 26, 1990

President Bush sent this letter to Senator Harkin on the day that he signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. He connects the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence that americans with disabilities will experience because of the ADA.

The next section to the left contains a timeline in photos and graphics on a blue background.

The title – Harkin’s Accomplishments.

Next to the title is the International Wheelchair symbol.

The timeline is layed out with text in large white circles connected by blue lines.

The first circle at the top is a black and white photo of Senator Harkin and three children all showing the sign language symbol for love.

The second circle text reads 1988 – National Deafness and other Communications Disorders act.

A caption reads – This act amended the Public Service Health Act and authorized the creation of the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders within the National Institutes of Health to conduct and fund research on hearing, balance, taste, smell, voice, speech and language.

The next circle text reads 1990 – Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Above the circle is a photo blended with the blue background. The photo shows Senator Harkin speaking at a podium.

The caption reads

In a speech on the floor of the Senate, Senator Harkin referred to the ADA as “the 20th Century emancipation proclamation for people with disabilities” because it extended civil rights protections to them. President George HW Bush signed the bill into law on July 26, 1990.

The next circle text reads 1990 – Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990.

The next circle text reads 1990 – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The next circle contains a black and white photo showing Senator Harkin leaning over a small boy in a wheelchair who is using a stylus.

The caption reads

IDEA guarantees that students with disabilities will receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and it requires public schools to create and individualized education program (IEP) for students with disabilities and for them to be education in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

The next circle text reads 1997 – FDR Memorial

Above it is a photo blended into the blue background showing a sculpture of FDR seated in a wheelchair.

The caption reads

When the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial opened in 1997, it did not include representation of the former president using a wheelchair. Senator Harkin participated in the effort to pass legislation to design and construct a permanent addition to the memorial to depict FDR’s disability. The statue was dedicated in January 2001.

The final circle text reads 2008 – Restoring original intent of ADA with ADA Amendments Act of 2008.

A photo shows Senator Harkin smiling at the camera as he signs a document.

The caption reads

After a series of Supreme Court decisions weakened the Americans with Disabilities Act, Senator Harkin and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch partnered to draft the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 to “restore the intent and protections” of the 1990 Act. The amendments clarified the ADA’s definition of disability and made it easier for inviduals to seek protection under the law.

Moving left is a large grey box with white letters.

The title reads The Institute Today

The first paragraph reads

Harkin International Disability Employment Summit

The Harkin International Disability Empllyment Summit serves as the signature event in this policy area and brings together leaders from around the world with the goal of increasing employment for people with disabilities. At the inaugural Harkin Summit in 2017, Senator Harkin issued a challenge to dougle the rate of employment for people with disabilities in the next decade.

Next to that paragraph is a color photo shows a wide shot of attendees at the conference.

The caption reads

The inaugural Harkin Summit was held in Washington DC in 2017 and also has been held internationally in Paris and Belfast.

The second paragraph is titled Universal Design

The Tom and Ruth Harkin Center is a model of universal design. It incorporates gracious building circulation, natural light, contrasting colors and meeting in the round.

One of the key features is a two-story ramp that serves as the main path between floors.

The Harkin Institute relied on its Disability Policy Committee to advise on the universal design elements in the building.

A color photo shows the exterior of the Tom and Ruth Harkin Center.

Moving left, the final panel in the exhibit is an interactive display that includes notecards filled out by attendees in a frame.

Above the frame is a quote from Senator Harkin that reads

We’ve come so far as a country since passage of the ADA and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. But our work is far from over. We must continue to fight for policies that promote equal opportunity, full participation, self-determination, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities and their families.

Above the frame, text reads What does accessibility mean to you?

The frame contains 9 slots for attendees to display their notecards. There are blank notecards and pens below the frame.

The notecards read

  • Accessibility creates equity
  • Level playing field
  • Well thought through building to admire and cherish for decades.
  • Freedom – I can fly!
  • Opening more than just doors
  • Creating things that can be interacted with by anyone and everyone
  • All are welcomed
  • You can slay without restriction because accessibility shows that everyone is valued equally
  • Inclusivity
  • So I can do it


You can learn more at harkininstitute dot drake dot edu