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Hon. Tony Coelho

#ADA30 Summit 2020

Hon. Tony Coelho headshot wearing a suit and tie. Coelho is a white man with short grey hairTony Coelho is a former United States congressman from California, and primary author and sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Tony was elected to Congress in 1978 and served for six terms until 1989. He served on the Agriculture, Interior, Veterans Affairs, and Administration Committees during his tenure, specializing in disabled rights.

In 1986, Tony was elected House Majority Whip. As the chief vote counter for his party, Tony oversaw a series of Democratic victories in the House on measures ranging from the budget to cutting off funds for the war in Central America.

Tony was the original author of the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. By 1994, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that some 800,000 more people with severe disabilities had found employment than were employed when the bill was first enacted. Tony currently serves as the DNC Disability Council Chair, seeking to ensure that the political process is accessible to people with disabilities.

President Bill Clinton appointed Tony to serve as Chairman of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, a position he held from 1994 to 2001. He also served as Vice Chair of the National Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities. In 1998, Clinton appointed Tony as the United States Commissioner General at the 1998 World Expo in Portugal. Clinton also appointed Tony as Co-Chair to the U.S. Census Monitoring Board, a position he held until his appointment as general chairman of the Gore presidential campaign.

In addition to formerly chairing Life Without Limits and the Disability Pride & Power Committee, he is the past chair of both the Epilepsy Foundation (2005-2007) and the American Association for People with Disabilities (2009-2011) Boards of Directors, and continues to serve on their boards. He also served as the Acting President and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation in 2011. In May, 2013, he co-authored an article for the American Journal of Public Health titled “Addressing Stigma Through Social Inclusion” with former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and former Surgeon General David Satcher.

In March 2009, Tony was named as Chairperson for the Partnership to Improve Patient Care (PIPC). In this capacity, Tony works to amplify the voice of the Partnership’s diverse members, including people with disabilities, racial and ethnic communities and the elderly, among others.

Tony is the founder of the Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy and Innovation at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, which collaborates with the disability community to cultivate leadership and advocate innovative approaches to advance the lives of people with disabilities. Tony is also the chairman of the DNC’s Disability Council. Tony participates annually at New York Law School for its Tony Coelho Lecture in Disability Employment Law & Policy. He has endowed a chair in Public Policy at the University of California in Merced and also in Neurology for Pediatric Surgery at UC-LA.

Tony now makes his home in Rehoboth Beach, DE.

Meet the Author

Eric Ascher
Eric Ascher

Eric Ascher is the Communications Associate for RespectAbility. He is responsible for supporting RespectAbility’s Communications Director in developing and implementing advocacy efforts and communications of various types. Ascher manages RespectAbility’s social media channels, website and emails; organizes and develops webinars; and supervises Communications Fellows.

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