Jim Ward is the founder and President of Americans with Disability Act Watch and the National Coalition for Disability Rights. On July 26th, which should have been a day of celebration as it marks the 18th anniversary of the Americans with Disability Act, Ward had to deal with the fallout of the high-profile remarks of right-wing radio shick jock Michael Savage about people with autism. I contacted Jim via email in Columbus, Ohio where the ADA Watch founder was attending a presidential disability issues forum, Senator John McCain is participating via satellite. The email interview, verbatim:
Ron Mwangaguhunga: What was your first reaction when you heard what Michael Savage said?
Jim Ward: Sadness followed by anger. I have dedicated my life to working to advance disability rights and someone with this much power and celebrity can undo the work of so many, so quickly.
Ron Mwangaguhunga: The 18th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act is upcoming, signed by the father of the present President. What was Savage thinking with the timing? Or maybe he wasn't thinking.
Jim Ward: I don't think Savage had a clue about the anniversary date. He has an extensive track record of degrading and demeaning statements about people with disabilities so the odds are good that one of these statements might
coincide with an important date.
Ron Mwangaguhunga: I just watched the rant and it seems like he's just throwing rhetorical bombs to get attention. Do you worry that with calling him out you are feeding his perverse ego?
Jim Ward: Yes, this is something we always consider. But the reality is that he has a huge audience and he will get plenty of attention regardless. I hope we can use this episode as a teaching example so that people will know that this kind of ignorance still exists and people with disabilities still need protections .. we will continue to work to protect our rights.