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The ADA Turns 30: How Champaign-Urbana Helped Shape Accomodation

July 24, 2020

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ACA) turns 30 today. The civil rights law sought to provide equal rights to employment, transportation, and public life for anyone with a disability. The law helped provide accessibility for millions of Americans who had to deal with challenges associated with their ableness. 

U of I's History of advocacy for disability resources

Image Credit: University of Illinois' Disability Resources and Educational Services 

By the time the ADA became law, the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana had already been at the forefront of advocacy for the cause of accessibility for a quarter of a century. As early as 1948, the Galesburg campus of the university was assisting disabled WWII veterans in reacclimating to society after suffering physical disabilities during service.

U of I faculty and students helped pave the way for research development that would go on to shape the ADA. From practices in accessibility to recommended accommodations and resources, the University of Illinois' efforts went on to form the national standards outlined in the ADA.

The Formation of DRES

One graduate student, Timothy Nugent, was just 24 when he began offering sports like wheelchair basketball and other activities to students. The prodigious impact of these programs led to a noticeable psychological benefit to the participants. 


I knew after a month that these guys needed something else, something to give vent to their emotions, something to give them personal satisfaction, (a sense) of mastering a skill.” - Timothy Nugent (via DRES archives)

Nugent was able to move his operation to the Urbana campus, but it took eight years to obtain funding from the university. Even without financial support from U of I, Nugent and his students developed what would become Disability Resources and Educational Services within the College of Applied Health Sciences. Their work is credited by some to be the birthplace of the disability rights movement. 

DRES Today

The Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services didn't just pave the way for the ADA and other past bills. The program continues to lead disability rights initiatives in the present and future. Here are some points of pride for the department:

Thanks to the ada - 30 years of Enhanced accessibility 

Celebrate the ADA30 (1990-2020) Americans with Disabilities Act - July 26, 2020

The ADA National Network is asking Americans to share their #ThanksToTheADA moment. Moments to recognize the importance of these accommodations are all around us. Our diverse community is made up of many residents who could not go to work, explore our downtown areas, or enjoy all Champaign-Urbana has to offer without the ADA. 

As the birthplace of the disability rights movement and home to students and teachers who helped pave the way for this important bill, we're proud to say #ThanksToTheADA as it turns 30. 


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