This is a day I have been dreading. I have been dreading it ever since he announced he was not going to run again in the November, 2014 elections. If you follow my blog, you know that I am a huge fan of Senator Harkin. He has long been a champion for people with disabilities and special education. Honestly, with Senator Ted Kennedy deceased, and now Senator Harkin retiring, I am worried. We don’t have anyone in our Senate who was fighting for our kids the way these two have. We have supporters, but not outspoken champions, so we’ll have to work hard to turn our supporters into champions for our cause.

Today was the day he said goodbye officially on the Senate floor. Now it is time to say Goodbye and Thank You to Senator Harkin, for all that he has done for the Disabilities Community.

Here are just a few of Senator Harkin’s accomplishments, particularly in the area of disabilities, special needs and special education.

Update: Here is Senator Tom Harkin’s Farewell Speech from the Senate floor. It is a MUST READ, as one of his main parting comments was about hiring people with disabilities, and he even mentions Randy Lewis. His 4th point is about the UN Disabilities Rights Treaty, which is another issue I’m passionate about. Sorely missed…..he will be.

Today Senator Harkin said goodbye to the US Senate and the Disabilities Community will miss him. "Nothing about us, without us!" Here is his list of accomplishments.

Senator Tom Harkin was considered to be the leading advocate for disability rights in Congress. He was the Senate author of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. In addition to negotiating and passing the ADA, he was responsible for numerous pieces of legislation that embedded the four goals of the ADA throughout American policy-from transportation to housing to education to health care-he made certain that people with disabilities were included when legislation was being drafted and that these individuals were part of the decision making when laws were being implemented. His work ensured “nothing about us without us” was not only a phrase, but a principle by which disability policy was executed.

  • Secured $12.2 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for students with disabilities.
  • Co-sponsored the 1997 and 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) to ensure that all states provide early childhood special education services to children with disabilities from age three to five.
  • Authored the Keeping All Students Safe Act of 2012 and 2014, bills to ensure the effective implementation of positive behavioral interventions in our nations’ schools and to prohibit the use of dangerous seclusion and restraints.
  • Created the Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities, which promoted community college, four-year college, ad post-secondary certification program participation for young people with disabilities as part of the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Opportunity Act.
  • Throughout his career, Harkin has worked to include language on the integration of people with disabilities into legislation addressing all aspects of life in America.
  • Authored the Community First Choice (CFC) Option within the Affordable Care Act, a provision that combatted the “institutional bias” of Medicaid by helping states create programs to support individuals with disabilities in their own homes, apartments, and other inclusive living settings.
  • Created the Administration on Independent Living in the Department of Health and Human Services through the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014.
  • In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Olmstead v. L.C. held that individuals with disabilities should be integrated into the community rather than trapped in nursing homes and other institutions as required under the ADA.
  • Successfully led the passage of the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act as part of the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, legislation to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities in competitive integrated settings.
  • Highlighted the need to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities through twelve hearings and four HELP Committee reports between 2010 and 2014.
  • Authored the 1988 bill that established the National Institute on Deafness and Communications Disorders at the National Institutes of Health. The Institute has expanded research on deafness and hearing loss and works to advance stem-cell research to address hearing loss, improving cochlear implants, and expanding newborn hearing screening technology.
  • Authored the Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990, which requires all TV sets to be equipped with an electronic chip providing closed captioning.
  • Introduced the Captioning and Image Narration to Enhance Movie Accessibility Act of 2014 to ensure access to movies for individuals who are blind, deaf, and hard of hearing.
  • Introduced the Air Carrier Access Amendments of 2014 to ensure airlines provided captioning for all entertainment provided during flights.

Thank you Senator Harkin, for all that you have done. I hope that we find someone who wants to follow in your {very large!} footsteps. We’ve come very far under your leadership, but still have far to go.