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NCD commemorates 35th anniversary of ‘Toward Independence’ report

Monday, February 1, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                               

WASHINGTON–The National Council on Disability (NCD) today marks the 35-year anniversary of a federal report that led to the drafting of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Toward Independence: An Assessment of Federal Laws and Programs Affecting Persons with Disabilities - With Legislative Recommendations presented NCD’s findings, conclusions, and legislative recommendations based upon review and assessment of federal laws and programs; and how each one served individuals with disabilities.

The report ultimately recommended creating a civil rights law, which resulted in the ADA.

“When you reflect upon the history of the ADA from a legislative standpoint, this was the beginning,” said NCD Chairman Andrés Gallegos. “This helped millions of persons with disabilities dare to dream that civil rights legislation was attainable,” he said. “The same influential role that NCD played then continues today – providing pointed and timely advice to the President and federal policymakers that has as its only purpose improving the lives and advancing the civil rights of persons with disabilities.”

On Jan. 28, 1986—the same day as the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster—an advanced copy of the report was hand-delivered to Vice President George H.W. Bush at the White House by NCD Chairwoman Sandy Parrino; Vice Chairman Justin Dart; Council Member Jeremiah Milbank Jr.; and Executive Director Lex Frieden.

Upon receiving the report, Vice President Bush, who would later become President and sign the ADA into law, welcomed them to his office, with Chief Counsel to the Vice President C. Boyden Gray, to discuss the report’s findings.

The 1986 NCD report drew three general conclusions from its research into 10 major policy topics – that federal disability programs need to better emphasize initiatives for equal opportunity, independence, and self-sufficiency; the importance of Social Security and other safety net programs; and the need to emphasize encouraging and assisting private sector efforts to promote opportunities and independence for individuals with disabilities.

On Jan. 29, 1988, a follow-up report called On the Threshold of Independence was released by the Council. It was the first draft of what would be used by Congress as the framework for the ADA. Both the House and Senate introduced legislation in 1988 and the ADA became law when it was signed on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush.

Read the reports at


An official website of the National Council on Disability