Justin Dart, Jr., was a leader of the international disability rights movement and a human rights activist. Dart has earned the title of “the father of the Americans with Disabilities Act” and “the godfather of the disability rights movement.” Dart was a leader in the disability rights movement for three decades.
Dart contracted polio as a child and was told he only had three days to live. Dart survived the ordeal and started using a wheelchair after. Dart attended the University of Houston from 1951 to 1954, earning his bachelors and masters degrees in political science and history. During his time in college, Dart organized his first human rights group which was a pro-integration student group at what was then a whites-only institution.
Dart is best known for his work in passing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In 1988, he was appointed to chair the Congressional Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of Americans with Disabilities. Dart argued the ADA was “the civil rights act of the future.” The ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990, an anniversary that is celebrated each year by “disability pride” events all across the country.
“Beloved colleagues in struggle, listen to the heart of this old soldier. Our lives, our children’s lives, the quality of the lives of billions in future generations hangs in the balance. I cry out to you from the depths of my being. Humanity needs you! Lead! Lead! Lead the revolution of empowerment,” Dart said.