The ADA AT 25: PROMISE, PROGRESS, OPPORTUNITY
In 1974, Tom was elected to Congress from Iowa’s Fifth Congressional District. As a young senator, Tom was tapped by Senator Ted Kennedy to craft legislation to protect the civil rights of millions of Americans with physical and mental disabilities. Tom knew firsthand about the challenges facing people with disabilities from his late brother, Frank, who was deaf from an early age. What emerged from that process would later become Tom’s signature legislative achievement — The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To preserve the intent of the ADA after several court rulings weakened its standards, Tom and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the ADA Amendments bill to ensure continuing protections from discrimination for all Americans with disabilities. It was signed into law in September 2008. In November 2008, Tom made history by becoming the first Iowa Democrat to win a fifth term in the U.S. Senate. Tom retired from the United States Senate in January, 2015.
Tom Harkin was born in Cumming, Iowa (pop. 150) on November 19, 1939, the son of an Iowa coal miner father and a Slovenian immigrant mother. To this day, he still lives in the house in Cumming where he was born. In 1968, Tom married Ruth Raduenz, the daughter of a farmer and a school teacher from Minnesota. Tom and Ruth have two daughters, Amy and Jenny, and three grandchildren.