The mission of ADA Watch is to promote and defend the civil and human rights of people with physical, mental and all types of disabilities.
- ADA Watch is a nonprofit alliance of hundreds of national, state, and local nonpartisan organizations united to defend and promote the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other human rights protections for people with physical, mental and all types of disabilities.
- ADA Watch aims to prevent the rolling back of laws designed to allow people with disabilities to live, learn and work in their own homes and communities.
- ADA Watch is a national grassroots educational and media campaign informing policymakers, media and the public about our movement’s history and power. ADA Watch convenes stakeholders and provides timely updates, action alerts and tools to inform and mobilize the grassroots, all in order to preserve and advance our rights and freedoms.
ADA Watch is a program of the Coalition for Disability Rights and Justice (CDRJ), a nonprofit alliance of disability, civil rights, human rights and social justice organizations. CDRJ programs also include Road To Freedom bus tour, Disability Rights Concert series, Media and Public Awareness Campaign, Campaign for Fair Judges, and more.
The Social Good Fund is our 501c3 fiscal sponsor.
ADA Watch/CDRJ builds and supports coalition between social change movements. Our initiatives have united disability, civil rights and social justice organizations to defend and advance the human rights of people with physical, mental and all types of disabilities.
Our constituency consists of the one-in-four Americans with disabilities, their families, their advocates and more.
CDRJ promotes rights-based approaches and the social model of disability with the goal of instilling individual, organizational and movement empowerment.
Our coalition efforts first launched in 2000, with disability rights icon and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Justin Dart, Jr. serving as our founding chair. Justin was widely acknowledged as the “Father of the ADA.” Patrisha Wright, the disability community’s “ADA General,” also served as chair in our early years.
Jim Ward, a former elected official, longtime human rights advocate and person with a disability, is our founder.
ADA Watch/CDRJ founding advisory council members included Judy Heumann, Becky Ogle, Bob Kafka, Curtis Decker, Claudia Gordon, Mike Oxford, Jennifer Mathis, Ron Bassman, Tom Olin, Bob Kafka, Marca Bristo, Bobby Coward, Susan Henderson, Nancy Starnes, Brewster Thackeray and others.
From our beginning, we have worked to highlight and strengthen the disability movement’s connection to the civil rights and social justice communities. Our founding advisory council included progressive leaders and organizations like Wade Henderson and the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights; Nan Aaron and the Alliance for Justice; and Ralph Neas and People for the American Way.
Our efforts have recently been revitalized with a generous planning grant from the Ford Foundation’s U.S. Disability Rights Program under the direction of celebrated disability rights leader Rebecca Cokley, the liaison to the President’s Council for Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy.
Most people are not aware of the social change movement that led to the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other disability rights protections. It is a people’s movement that today is busier than ever working to prevent the rolling back of laws designed to allow people with disabilities to live, learn and work in their own homes and communities.
Today, millions of Americans with disabilities are still forced to live in nursing homes and institutions. Indeed, in response to the many societal problems facing our nation, there are frequent calls for more, rather than less segregation and institutionalization. And millions of Americans with disabilities routinely lose their right of self-determination and are being forced into often abusive guardianships. Every day, people with disabilities continue to face stereotyping, stigma and discrimination.
With the goal of promoting inclusion, dignity and empowerment for Americans with all types of disabilities, ADA Watch works in service of the larger disability rights movement. We are especially focused on reframing the public’s understanding of disability away from “charity” models to a human rights and social justice framework. We seek to reach our goal—in partnership with nonprofit, foundation and corporate sponsors, media, Hollywood studios and recording artists—via public education campaigns, mobile marketing and promotional events.
At our founding, the ADA Watch National Advisory Council envisioned ADA Watch as:
- An alliance of hundreds of national, state, and local nonpartisan organizations, foundations, and policy think tanks united to defend and promote the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other disability rights protections.
- A rapid response network organizing grassroots action, contacting Congress and the media as a result of breaking disability rights news and information.
- A national grassroots and media campaign designed to get the message to educate policymakers and the public about our movement’s history as well as current threats to the ADA and other disability rights protections.
- An organization – not dependent on federal dollars – that can take on cutting issues such as lax ADA enforcement; hate crimes against people with disabilities; executive-level appointee and judicial nominations; oppressive guardianship laws, forced medication and coercive treatment of adults with disabilities; the impact of privatization and voucher program’s on children with disabilities; draconian calls for the re-institutionalization of children and adults with disabilities; and much more.
We cite the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities to define the more than 61 million Americans for whom we advocate as “people who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”
The Convention follows decades of work by the United Nations to change attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. It takes to a new height the movement from viewing persons with disabilities as “objects” of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as “subjects” with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society.
From our founding, ADA Watch has worked to promote the general principles stated in Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as follows:
- Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy – including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons.
- Full and effective participation and inclusion in society
- Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity.
- Equality of opportunity
- Equality between men, women, and non-binary persons
- Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.