It was July 26, 1990: At the invitation of President George H. Bush, Dr. Getrude Barber had traveled to Washington, DC to witness the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This was a momentous occasion for her because she remembered well the year 1952 when no services were available for people with disabilities and they were relegated to institutions across the country. That year, when she started the first program, she served 15 students. As of today, the Barber National Institute serves 5,300 children, adults and families with special needs!
Over the years, she was a strong advocate for inclusion of persons with disabilities in the community, in schools, and in all aspects of life. She shattered numerous “glass ceilings” in her lifetime, but July 26th was the pinnacle of her efforts. Little did she know, her great nephew would be born in 1993 with autism. He would become the beneficiary of many programs and services that were developed as a result of her advocacy. I can’t imagine what Ryan’s life would have been like without these supports.
For me, the anniversary of the ADA signing is also a day that I reminisce about the many outstanding accomplishments of my Aunt Gertrude. I’m continually awed by how much she was able to achieve in a very short period of time. She would be pleased to see Ryan’s many successes as well as the on-going growth and progress of the Barber National Institute!
That was a great piece of legislation and Dr. Gertrude A. Barber was an incredible pioneer. I had the distinct honor and privilege to work for her in the mid seventies. I also had the honor of meeting Roslyn Carter when she came to the Dr. Gertrude A. Barber Center to honor the founder, Dr. Barber.