The Honorable Anthony "Tony" Coelho has spent his entire adult life helping advance the lives of people with disabilities. He calls this his "ministry" while those in the disability community call him their "voice" and "champion."
Diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 22 years old, Tony's ministry is marked by significant milestones: primary author and sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — the most important piece of civil rights legislation in the last 30 years; advocating for the ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and persuading President Bill Clinton to establish the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor. Tony continues to advocate for civil rights for individuals with disabilities. He persuaded President Barack Obama to issue an executive order enforcing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to hire people with disabilities -- something they have been doing since 1973 for women and minorities.
Tony is a former six-term United States Congressman from California, elected in 1978 and serving until 1989. He served on the Agriculture, Interior, Veterans Affairs and House Administration Committee during his tenure, specializing in disability rights. In 1986, Tony was elected House Majority Whip, the third most powerful position in the House of Representatives.
Currently, he serves on a number of corporate boards of directors and is the founding partner of a national public affairs firm.
A native of California, Tony earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science in 1964 from Loyola University in Los Angeles (now Loyola Marymount University), where he served as Student Body President during his senior year. Tony has served as a member of Loyola Marymount University's Board of Trustees and received an Honorary Doctorate in 1987. Tony currently serves on the Board of Directors of both the Epilepsy Foundation and the American Association of People with Disabilities — two boards he has previously chaired.
President George H.W. Bush
Tony’s efforts have truly enriched humanity and helped to make America the world leader for people with disabilities.
Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.
Tony has been a contributor to good causes, particularly for those with disabilities. He’s been a real champion of federal law, endowing chairs in universities, building on the tremendous work he has done in Congress.
DNC Chair & Former Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez
Because of Tony’s work along with so many others, more businesses have come to understand that people with disabilities can do the job if you simply give them the chance. That they can be passionate and dedicated employees who can contribute to a company’s bottom line.
Senior Advisor and Confidant to President Obama Velerie Jarrett
Twenty-five years ago, Tony helped usher in major change in our society through the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which he personally helped to author when he was in Congress. And, in 2016 he played a major role in helping the administration finalize new rules that require federal contractors to hire people with disabilities.
- Tony Coelho, ''Opinion: Trump Medicare Drug Plan Would Hurt Most Vulnerable Patients'', The Mercury News (January 2, 2019).
- Tony Coelho and Michael Waterstone, "We must advance what President Bush began by signing the Americans With Disabilities Act", San Francisco Chronicle (December 10, 2018).