Tony Coelho is a former United States congressman from California, and primary author and sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Mr. Coelho is the interim President and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation.
In March 2009, Coelho was named as Chairperson for the Partnership to Improve Patient Care (PIPC). In this capacity, Coelho will work to amplify the voice of the partnership’s diverse members, including people with disabilities, racial and ethnic communities and the elderly, among others.
Coelho also serves as board Chairman of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the country’s largest cross-disability membership organization.
Coelho 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, Coelho was elected House Majority Whip. As the chief vote counter for his party, Coelho 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.
Coelho 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. The promise of Coelho’s political career had been redeemed by the disabled community from whose ranks he had arisen.