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Social media wrap: Langevin to take over from Pelosi in historic day for Disabilities Act

July 23, 2010 |  6:48 am

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is set to hand over the speaker’s rostrum (and it’s not even November yet).

Rep. Jim Langevin posted on Facebook Thursday that he will take the rostrum as speaker pro tempore on Monday to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, becoming the first member in a wheelchair to preside over the House.

Langevin, who is a quadriplegic, a five-term Democrat from Rhode Island and co-chairman of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, wrote: "Was just with Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer announcing that the rostrum on the House Floor is now accessible – just in time for the 20th Anniversary of the ADA. Now voting on extending unemployment benefits, then to Judiciary for an ADA hearing with Hoyer. Busy, exciting day!"

Langevin will show that the speaker's rostrum has recently been made wheelchair accessible. Before a series of mechanical lifts was installed, the podium was accessible only by two flights of stairs. ...

... The congressman on Monday will preside over an early afternoon floor debate and, later, a brief session of votes. Both sessions are scheduled to be broadcast on C-SPAN.

The bipartisan nature of the event was noted by Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, who posted on Facebook: "Today is the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) becoming law. This landmark civil rights law prohibits discrimination and requires accommodations for persons with disabilities. The ADA ensures that individuals with Disabilities can participate in the American dream."

Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader and lead sponsor of the 20-year-old act, said Thursday: "The Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t just matter to Americans with disabilities. It should matter to every American, because the degree to which our society is an open, inclusive, and fair one is a measure of our character. It is a measure of how far we have lived up to America’s promise."

The ADA was enacted by Congress in 1990 to "provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” It was signed into law July 26, 1990, by President George H. W. Bush, who at the time said: "Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down."

The ADA defines a disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity." In 2008, the House passed a series of amendments to the original bill.

In remarks Thursday, Pelosi said: "Just so you know, the speaker of the House presides over each session of Congress. But the speaker is not always in the chair and appoints speakers pro tem. When we attained the majority, and then Democrats would be presiding as the majority party that presides, Mr. Langevin wanted to do that. We had to make sure he was able to from the standpoint of the raised level of the podium that the access would be there." 

Langevin wrote on his website: "I have long said that I may be the first quadriplegic to serve in Congress, but I won’t be the last. On Monday, we will celebrate another major step in continuing efforts to make the Capitol Complex accessible when I preside over the U.S. House of Representatives.

"This is an extremely proud moment for me and helps renew my spirit as we continue to remove barriers and strengthen the ADA for millions of Americans with disabilities in the decades to come."

At 16, Langevin was injured while working with a police department in a Boy Scout Explorer program. A gun accidentally discharged and a bullet struck Langevin, leaving him paralyzed, his website noted.

-- Craig Howie

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Photo: Nancy Pelosi, Jim Langevin and Steny Hoyer. Credit: Getty Images

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