Technology for the disabled and the ADA are still two major concerns of retired Senator Tom Harkin. The former Iow senator introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act in the Senate in 1988. Recently he told a group at the University of Iowa that labor law needs to go further in protecting the rights of the disabled and preventing discrimination.
“We’ve come a long way,” Harkin said. “But as new technologies develop, new concepts, we have to be vigilant to make sure that when we build — especially those who build IT platforms — we bring in people with disabilities. Bring them in. Ask them, ‘What would you like to see?’”
The UI’s theme semester is titled “Our Lives Online.” Harkin’s appearance was part of a lecture series on the Disabilities Act and the aim of inclusion. The university proposes to explore the “global system of connectedness, networks and collaboration discovered in our past and emerging in our present future.”
Harkin fielded comments and questions from the audience on disability specific employment training, hearing assistance technology, and continuing efforts to move disabled people into the community.
He commented on the goals of the ADA, and mentioned that the ongoing efforts involve technology, despite the fact that “we didn’t have the internet, we didn’t have all that in 1988.”
“But we put a provision in that said the ADA basically is to be adaptable for new technologies,” Harkin said. “What we were writing was not just for that technology but to incorporate this into new technologies as they develop.”