Honoring the ADA and the History, Art, and Culture of the Disability Community with the Smithsonian Institution and the Kennedy Center

The weekend of July 24 through 26, 2015 brings a nationwide celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26th, 1990, capping decades of legal efforts and activism to end discrimination against people with disabilities. To honor this historic event, leaders in the disability rights community, advocates, community members and politicians will gather on the grounds of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History to mark this historic moment and highlight the ADA’s ongoing legacy in American life.

The Smithsonian Institution’s celebration will start on Friday, July 24, 2015, on the terrace of the National Museum of American History with a large discussion stage where topics such as the passage of the ADA, legal issues, advocacy, employment and the future of disability rights will be explored. Also on hand will be exhibits by federal agency partners and workshops in theater, dance, music and visual arts. Visitors can view a modified Corvette race car. There will be a number of hands-on activities and demonstrations. The museum store will host a trunk show of items from artists with disabilities. The celebration will start winding down on Sunday at noon with the ADA birthday party and a reading of a letter from George H.W. Bush along with a visit from the legendary ADA25 Legacy Bus, which has been traveling the country.

Inside the museum, the celebration will continue with a showcase of objects from the national collections that capture the significance and legacy of the ADA through the stories of four people. There will be a film festival of documentaries from filmmakers with disabilities followed by a discussion and a facilitated conversation on Latinos and the ADA. Additionally, actor and performance artist Mat Fraser will perform his one-person, original piece, “Cabinet of Curiosities: How Disability Was Kept in a Box.” Fraser’s creative take on attitudes about disability is equal parts cabaret, incisive lecture and humorous commentary on museum displays of human difference.

From July 16 through 26, 2015, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 40th anniversary of VSA with 11 days of free programming highlighting the rich history, art and culture of the disability community. VSA, a Jean Kennedy Smith Arts and Disability Program of the Kennedy Center, is dedicated to providing opportunities for people with disabilities of all ages across the globe to learn through, participate in and enjoy the arts.

Kennedy Center performing arts programming will include ten Millennium Stage performances by artists with disabilities opening with comedian Josh Blue and ending on July 26th with a performance by Mary Lambert. It will also feature a dance party and film screening for the inaugural year of TiLT, a youth multimedia competition themed on the disability experience.

In addition, seven art exhibitions by visual artists with disabilities will be on display at the Kennedy Center. Highlights include the Focus Forward exhibition, which features work from previous VSA Emerging Young Artists, and an exhibit examining Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s contributions to the passage of the ADA legislation with two portraits from the VSA Permanent Art Collection of Senator Kennedy by well-known artists Andy Warhol and Jamie Wyeth. The other exhibits showcase the work of photographers whose art brought disability pride to the public’s attention, universal design, the VSA Permanent Art Collection and a look at eight individuals whose lives were impacted by VSA.

The ADA is not the end of the fight for equal rights for the disability community but it was a historic step that should be honored and celebrated. Over 75,000 people are expected to join in this celebration and we hope that you will be one of them. For additional information on both celebrations go to http://www.2540celebration.com/ (website will launch June 4, 2015) or email access@si.edu.

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