KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Former U.S. Senator Bob Dole was instrumental in the signing and passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.
“This prohibited discrimination in public places in universities and restaurants, and really was a game changer in terms of how Americans looked at discrimination,” Professor Bob Beatty, Washburn University Political Science Chair, said.
As he lay in state, after passing away at the age of 98 over the weekend, people at Alphapointe reflected on impact of Dole’s legacy. More than half of the employees at the manufacturing facility are visually impaired or blind.
Cheryl Rayburn had just started to lose her vision in 1990 when Dole, a Republican senator from Kansas, helped reach across the aisle to pass the landmark legislation.
“When you think about somebody who is in a wheelchair and they come to a building, a doctors office or a retail shop and there’s no ramp they can not access where they need to get,” Rayburn said.
But for Alphapointe’s Donor Development and Community Relations Manager, ADA isn’t just about getting around, but companies making sure employees with disabilities have the tools and technology they need to do their jobs.
“My keyboard has bumps on it because I can’t see this keyboard, but I can use these tactile features,” Rayburn demonstrated.
In Alphapointe’s manufacturing plant not being able to see hasn’t prevented employees from turning out plastics and micro molded components for many industries.
“I can’t do it has never been part of my vocabulary,” Rayburn said.
Nor was it for Dole, who turned his war injuries into not a disability, but the ability to see life with a different perspective.
“There’s still work to be done in the field of equal access and equal opportunity but we’ve come a long way. I can’t even imagine had the ADA not passed where we would be today,” Rayburn said.