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Disability History: People Who Have Made a Difference! features stories of people in their own homes, lives, families, communities, states, nations or the world who have made a difference (as), (with) or (for) people with disabilities.
For a quick link to disability history of your choice, click on the person below.
Stella Young - 1982-2014
The disability movement has lost a dedicated advocate from Melbourne, Australia. Stella Young was a comedian, former ABC's editor for Ramp Up, a disability website, and an advocate. She performed at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2014 in a one woman show called "Tales from the Crip." Stella was born with a congenital bone disorder, Osteogenesis imperfecta. She advocated for people with disabilities to be allowed to live their lives. At seventeen she realized, "That I was not wrong for the world I live in. The world I live in was not yet right for me.” She continued through her work and her humor to change misconceptions about disability and change legislation in Australia. See her Ted talk: Inspiration porn and the objectification of disability, Sydney, Australia, 2014, link through this article on The Australian.
"Terry" Fox (July 28, 1958 - June 28, 1981)
"Marathon of Hope" - Canadian humanitarian, athlete, and cancer research activist, person with right leg amputation.
Christopher Reeve (1952-2004)
"When we have hope, we discover powers within ourselves we may have never known. Once we choose hope, everything is possible." - Christopher Reeve, an American actor, film director, producer, screenwriter, author and activist, husband, father and a person with cervical spinal injury that paralyzed him from the neck down. He is founder of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation which is dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research, and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis through grants, information and advocacy.
Teddy Pendergrass (1950-2010)
"There is a need to assist those with SCI (Spinal Cord injury) to become or return to being productive members of society." - American R&B/soul singer and songwriter, founder of the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance, an organization for people with Spinal Cord Injury, - a person with parapalegia.
Justin Dart, Jr. (1930-2002)
"Get into politics as if your life depended on it. It does." - - - This is the most famous quote from the man given the title, "Father of the American Disabilities Act." For more information, visit this article from Disability History, Justin Dart: Activist
Evan J. Kemp, Jr. (1937-1997)
Evan J. Kemp, Jr. was a leader in the passing of the American Disabilities Act in 1990 with Justin Dart, Sandra Parrino And Rev. Wilke. He was a lawyer, a husband and a person with a physical disability who eventually suffered an accident to his legs and used a wheel chair. In 1959 he graduated from Washington & Lee University and the University of Virginia Law School. He had graduated near the top of his class and believed that he would be hired, but after 37 job interviews he was not hired. He took a government job but became disheartened by the treatment of people with disabiities and in 1980 became director of the Disability Rights Center. He was Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) in 1990. He was first named to the commission under President Reagan in 1987. He became a republican to try to get the ADA legislation passed, befriending politicians with the agenda of a disability mission. He worked to educate national policy makers on the importance of equal opportunity
and self-determination for people with disabilities. New York Times article
Alberta Lessard - 1921-2015
The disability movement has lost a dedicated advocate. In the early 70s, Alberta Lessard challenged the system on mental health commitment laws and changed, through the US Supreme Court, the laws across the country to provide more protection for individual patients such as rights to legal representation, a timely hearing, a jury trial and cross-examination of witnesses.
Alberta is absolute proof that one person can make a difference. She was an awesome, loving, caring, forgiving, special friend of one of the active members of New Horizons Un-Limited. She will be missed. [Photo credit: jsonline.com]
Eunice Kennedy Shriver (1921-2009)
On August 11, 2009, the disability community lost a great champion of those with intellectual disabilities, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. A long time advocate for children's health and disability issues, Shriver was a key founder of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and spearheaded the movement towards nationalizing the Special Olympics. To learn more about the life's work of this remarkable woman, visit Eunice Kennedy Shriver: One Woman's Vision online at www.eunicekennedyshriver.org.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945)
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States from 1933–1945. In 1921, before he became President, while on vacation in New Brunswick, Canada, Roosevelt contracted an illness diagnosed then as polio (historians are unsure whether it was polio or a different infectious disease) which resulted in permanent paralysis from the waist down. After he became President, he helped to found the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (now known as the March of Dimes). In private, he used a wheelchair, but he was careful never to allow the press to picture him or appear in public unless he was standing up supported on one side by an aide or one of his sons.
Edgar Allen - (1862-1937) Tragedy Leads to Inspiration: The Story of the Easter Seals Organization
In 1907, Ohio businessman Edgar Allen lost his son in a streetcar accident. The lack of adequate medical services available to save his son prompted Allen to sell his business and begin a fund-raising campaign to build a hospital in his hometown of Elyria, Ohio. Through this new hospital, Allen was surprised to learn that children with disabilities were often hidden from public view. Inspired by this discovery, in 1919 Allen founded what became known as the National Society for Crippled Children, the first organization of its kind. In the spring of 1934, the organization launched its first Easter "seals" campaign to raise money for its services selling seals. To show their support, donors placed the seals on envelopes and letters. Cleveland Plain Dealer cartoonist J.H. Donahey designed the first seal. Donahey based the design on a concept of simplicity because those served by the charity asked "simply for the right to live a normal life." The lily -- a symbol of spring -- was officially incorporated as Easter Seals' logo in 1952 for its association with resurrection and new life and has appeared on each seal since. The overwhelming public support for the Easter "seals" campaign triggered a nationwide expansion of the organization and a swell of grassroots efforts on behalf of people with disabilities. By 1967, the Easter "seal" was so well recognized, the organization formally adopted the name "Easter Seals." Today Easter Seals assists more than one million children and adults with disabilities and their families annually through a nationwide network of more than 450 service sites. Each center provides top-quality, family-focused and innovative services tailored to meet the specific needs of the particular community it serves. At the core of the Easter Seals organization is a common passion for caring, shared by its 13,000 staff members and thousands of volunteers, and by those who support its mission. This heart-felt commitment to helping people with disabilities and their families is what Easter Seals is all about.
Helen Keller (1880-1968)
American author, lecturer, political activist, person with both visual and hearing impairment who was known throughout the world. Helen Keller campaigned for women's suffrage,
labor rights, socialism, and for people with disabilities especially for those with visual impairment. Born in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Her father, Arthur H. Keller served as a captain for the Confederate Army and was an editor for the Tuscumbia North Alabamian. At 19 months old she contracted an acute illness that affected her sight and hearing. Her parents acquired an instructor, Anne Sullivan, who taught her sign language and eventually became her governess and companion. Helen Keller was the first person with both visual and hearing impairment to graduate with a bachelors degree. Keller graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904, at the age of 24. She read lips with her hands, used Braille and used sign language with her hands to communicate. She gave lectures and traveled the world. She was an advocate for people with disabilities, and in 1915 founded the Helen Keller International organization. She met U.S. Presidents and was friends with famous people that shared anti-capitalist views, such as Mark Twain and Charlie Chaplin. She published 12 books and several articles. Keller devoted much of her later life to raising funds for the
American Foundation for the Blind. On September 14, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded her the
Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the United States' two highest civilian honors.
Her social activism brough her to say, "My darkness has been filled with intelligence, and behold, the outerday-lit world was stumbling and groping in social blindness." Although Ms. Keller died in 1968, the "social blindness" she referred to unfortunately continues to survive in many places and certainly among many individuals. Part of the reason for this is the actual absence from mainstream societies of disabled persons. "The welfare of each is bound up in the welfare of all."
Of her disability she said, "I am just as deaf as I am blind. The problems of deafness are deeper and more complex, if not more important than those of blindness. Deafness is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus -- the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir, and keeps us in the intellectual company of man."
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