U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, Author of Americans With Disabilities Act, to Speak Oct. 26

Issue Date: 
October 19, 2009
harkin-photoTom Harkin

U. S. Senator Tom Harkin—whose legislation literally changed the landscape of America—will speak at the University of Pittsburgh from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Oct. 26 in the Barco Law Building’s Teplitz Memorial Courtroom. Harkin’s free talk, part of the Thornburgh Family Lecture Series in Disability Law and Policy, is titled “Disability Rights: The Achievements and the Unfinished Agenda.” The lecture is cosponsored by the Dick Thornburgh Forum for Law and Public Policy.

The talk will be simulcast in Room 107 of the Barco Law Building. A question-and-answer session will follow.

Harkin (D-IA) learned firsthand about the challenges facing people with disabilities from his late brother, Frank, who was deaf from an early age. Harkin took this knowledge to the U.S. Congress, where he made the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 his signature legislative achievement. The law protects the civil rights of millions of people with physical and mental disabilities by requiring that they be afforded accessible buildings, transportation, and workplace accommodations. To preserve the intent of the ADA after several court rulings weakened standards, Harkin and 1962 Pitt law school alumnus Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the ADA Amendments bill to ensure that all Americans with disabilities are protected from discrimination; this bill was signed into law in September 2008.

Harkin also has spearheaded the fight to advance research in paralysis and improve the quality of life for people living with paralysis and mobility impairments from stroke, ALS, spinal cord injuries, and other causes. His Christopher and Dana Reeve Act, named after the late actor and his widow, became law earlier this year.

Last month, Harkin accepted the position of chair of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, succeeding late U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

The Thornburgh Family Lecture Series in Disability Law and Policy was created through a generous gift from former Pennsylvania Governor and U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and his wife, Ginny, who is director of the American Association of People with Disabilities’ (AAPD) Interfaith Initiative.

Dick and Ginny Thornburgh were awarded the prestigious Henry B. Betts Award from the AAPD in 2003. They, in turn, contributed the cash award of $50,000 that accompanied the prize to the University of Pittsburgh. Those funds, together with matching grants from Pitt’s Office of the Chancellor, School of Law, and School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, have endowed the Thornburgh Family Lecture Series.

A 1957 graduate of Pitt’s School of Law, Thornburgh is counsel to the national law firm of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart LLP, resident in its Washington, D.C., office, and an emeritus member of the University’s Board of Trustees.

Harkin’s lecture has been approved by the Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Board for 1.5 hours of CLE credit; registration is at the door. For more information on the lecture series, call 412-648-1490.