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AAPD Statement on the Passing of Senator Bob Dole

by | Dec 5, 2021 | Press Release

For Immediate Release: 12/5/2021

Contact: Jess Davidson, jdavidson@aapd.com

Washington, D.C. – The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) mourns the loss of great public servant and disability rights champion Senator Bob Dole. Senator Dole was instrumental not only in establishing the legislative foundation of the modern disability rights movement, but also in launching our organization.

“The world as we know it today is more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities because of Senator Bob Dole. Senator Dole worked to elevate the voices and perspectives of people with disabilities, encouraging greater leadership opportunities for disabled people, and sharing his experience of disability with his colleagues to build bipartisan consensus for disability policy issues,” said Maria Town, President and CEO of AAPD. “His passing represents an enormous loss for AAPD, the disability community at-large, and the nation.”

From his first speech as a Senator in 1969 to his presence on the Senate floor in 2012, Senator Dole was a steadfast advocate for people with disabilities throughout his decades-long career in public service.

Senator Dole’s passion for disability rights came as a result of his personal experiences with disability — first becoming a service-disabled veteran during World War II, and then developing further disabilities as he aged. Senator Dole was instrumental in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, and his leadership is one of the primary reasons the transformational bill garnered such significant bipartisan support.

While Senator Dole regarded the passage of the ADA as one of the proudest moments of his career, he was keenly aware that the ADA was only one of the tools necessary to foster greater independence and dignity for people with disabilities in the United States and worldwide. In 1994, Senator Dole wrote to the Secretary of State to ask that the United States include the status of people with disabilities in its annual report on human rights. This became the launching point for Dole’s advocacy for what would become the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

From Senator Dole’s perspective, the United States led globally in its development of disability public policy, and it was his vision that the U.S. would continue to advance equality, justice, and dignity for people with disabilities. Although the Senate voted not to ratify the treaty, during the later years of his life, Senator Dole was stalwart in his commitment to getting the UNCRPD ratified, not only for the benefit of people with disabilities in other nations but also for the benefit of disabled Americans who traveled abroad, particularly disabled veterans.

In addition to his work on disability policy, Senator Dole was also deeply engaged in the further development of the disability community itself. In 1984, he created the Dole Foundation for the employment of people with disabilities, which provided grants to organizations to provide job placements, training, and other employment support. In recognition of the need to build the collective power of the disability community, Senator Dole was among those who founded AAPD in 1995. Our first offices were located in the Dole Foundation’s building, and his support was instrumental in helping our organization generate the support we needed to get our initial programming up and running. Senator Dole’s service to AAPD continues to inform our work to this day. In 2020, AAPD bestowed Senator Dole with our Lifetime Achievement Award at our annual Leadership Awards Gala.

AAPD sends the family and loved ones of Senator Bob Dole peace and comfort during this difficult time. His legacy will forever live on through the disability rights movement, as we build upon his hard-won progress.


The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities. As a national cross-disability rights organization, AAPD advocates for full civil rights for the over 61 million Americans with disabilities by promoting equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation. To learn more, visit the AAPD website: www.aapd.com.