July 26, 2021

On ADA’s 31st Anniversary, Duckworth Speaks at FDR Memorial Wreath Laying and Calls for Accessibility and Inclusion


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – As our nation marks the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) today, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined U.S. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) as well as members of the FDR Memorial Legacy Committee’s Advisory Board at the FDR Memorial to honor President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s leadership as the first known United States President with a significant physical disability and highlight the importance of disability representation and the work we must do to achieve full accessibility and inclusion. Video of the Senator’s remarks can be found here.

“While we’ve come a long way since the ink dried on the ADA 31 years ago, we still have a long way to go to make this country truly accessible for Americans with disabilities, including at National Parks like the FDR Memorial, on our transportation systems and more,” said Duckworth. “From updating illegible braille text on the walls of this memorial to passing my ASAP Act to help make our transit stations more accessible, all of our laws should safeguard every American’s constitutionally-enshrined rights, rather than punishing the very people whom our country has already discriminated against for too long. I was proud to join Congresswoman Norton and the FDR Memorial Legacy Committee’s Advisory Board to mark this important day in our nation’s history for disability rights, and I look forward to continuing our work to bring about a tomorrow where we won’t have to work so hard just to live our daily lives.”

Earlier this year, Duckworth and Norton introduced a resolution recognizing the successful campaign led by disability advocates to secure a statue of FDR in a wheelchair in the Prologue Room at the FDR Memorial and urging the National Park Service (NPS) to make the memorial accessible to everyone by installing tactile braille throughout the space and supporting the development of accessible education materials for visitors. In May, Duckworth introduced her All Stations Accessibility Program Act to help make public transportation systems more accessible to passengers with disabilities. 

This week, Duckworth sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Haaland urging the National Park Service to take action to make the FDR Memorial fully accessible to blind or visually impaired.

Full text of the letter can be found here and below:

July 26, 2021

The Honorable Deb Haaland

Secretary of Interior

Department of Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington DC 20240

Dear Secretary Haaland:

I write today regarding the inaccessibility of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (FDR Memorial) for people with disabilities and to respectfully request the National Park Service (NPS) address the numerous accessibility issues, which have lasted for decades, in time for the memorial’s 25th anniversary on May 2, 2022.

A recent report by Dr. Cheryl Fogle-Hatch outlines a number of ways in which the FDR Memorial fails to meet accessibility standards, particularly for people who are blind or visually impaired. Dr. Fogle-Hatch explains in detail how the FDR Memorial falls short in providing accessible options, including:

  • the NPS website failing to provide brochures with updated Unified English Braille (UEB);
  • the memorial not displaying legible Braille on the walls of the memorial; and
  • the lack of protective barriers that are of proper height for blind individuals.

Furthermore, there is evidence that these issues have been longstanding as they were highlighted in The Washington Post article, “FDR Memorial's Braille Letters Pose Sizable Problem for Blind” as early as 1997. To these shortcomings, Dr. Fogle-Hatch’s report provides detailed and straight-forward recommendations for improvement. Further, without these modifications, the NPS is failing to uphold the very values that promote disability rights enshrined in the Prologue Room at the FDR Memorial itself.

I have introduced Senate Resolution 86 (S.Res.86) to call for the recommitment of the United States to the promotion of disability rights and to the values enshrined in the Prologue Room of the FDR Memorial. This resolution calls on NPS and the National Park Foundation to continue to increase access to the FDR Memorial for individuals with disabilities and to support the development of accessible educational materials.

It is past due that NPS honor the needs of the disabled community and make the FDR Memorial fully accessible. I urge the NPS to move swiftly to incorporate the recommendations of Dr. Fogle-Hatch at the FDR Memorial to improve accessibility. Specifically, I urge NPS to facilitate the following:

  • the creation of a mobile guide accessible by smartphones to allow individuals with disabilities to use their own preferred accessibility settings;
  • update the FDR Memorial’s brochure to conform to current UEB code and include a descriptive layout of the Memorial;
  • add wayside interpretive panels in print and UEB code around the Memorial; and
  • install guardrails around the in-ground fountain in Room One that are no higher than 27 inches, in order to allow the barrier to be detected by a standard white cane.

While we’ve come closer to having true representation for our community at this memorial, we will never truly reach that milestone until every American can access and enjoy it. Incorporating these recommendations would illustrate NPS’s commitment to civil rights and allegiance to creating public spaces to be enjoyed by all Americans.

Several disability organizations have been fighting for accessibility at our Nation’s parks and memorials for decades, highlighting that this is an important and pressing issue for the disability community. As the 25th anniversary of the dedication of the FDR Memorial Prologue Room approaches, I am confident we will find a path forward in addressing these issues. I understand that some recent efforts and planning have been initiated for this Memorial, I look forward to hearing what those are. I deeply appreciate your urgent consideration of these recommendations, and I look forward to your commitment to improving accessibility at the FDR Memorial.