A Few of the Many Activists
in the Recent History of the Disability Rights Movement

Ed Roberts

1939 to 1995.  Father of the Independent Living Movement. When Ed was a teenager, a doctor told his mother that Ed would be no more than a vegetable the rest of his life. Later, Ed said "So I decided to be an artichoke, a little prickly on the outside but with a big heart on the inside. You know, the vegetables of the world are uniting and we're not going away."


Justin Dart

1930 to 2002.  Father of the Americans with Disabilities Act. "Empowerment means choices - individual choices about where we live, how we live, choices about where we work, how we work, and most definitely choices about our health care."


Evan Kemp

1937 to 1997.  Mr. Kemp was instrumental in getting the Americans With Disabilities Act passed into law.


Rev. Wade Blank

1940 to 1993.  In 1975 the Rev. Blank started the Atlantis Community in Denver, Co.  In 1978 he started the American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit (ADAPT), taking a public transit bus hostage to protest inaccessible buses.  ADAPT later was renamed American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT) to emphasize the need for Independent Living resources.


Judith Heumann

Born 1947.  Activist, co-founder of Disabled In Action and World Institute on Disability.  In 1977 Ms. Heumann helped organize a sit-in at the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) offices in San Francisco to protest the government's lack of issuing regulations for the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, Section 504.  The sit-in lasted almost one month, eventually leading to Secretary Joseph Califano issuing regulations. 


Bob Kafka

Born 1946.  Long time activist and ADAPT member.


Harriet Mc Bryde Johnson

1957 to 2008.  Author, Attorney, Activist.  Books: Too Late To Die Young and Accidents of Nature. Articles: "Unspeakable Conversations," The Disability Gulag," Wheelchair Unbound," "Stairway to Justice," and many others.   We were excited and felt honored when Ms. Johnson spoke on the UW-La Crosse campus on April 16, 2008.  We were saddened when we heard she died on June 4, 2008.


Diane Coleman

Born 1953.  Founder of Not Dead Yet. "It's the ultimate form of discrimination to offer people with disabilities help to die without having offered real options to live."


Stephen Drake

Research analyst for Not Dead Yet.


Laura Hershey

Author, consultant, advocate, Crip Commentary web page.


Andrew Imparato

President and CEO of American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).


Paul K. Longmore

1946 to 2010.  Professor of History and Director of the Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University.  Author of Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays On Disability. "Personal inclination made me a historian. Personal encounter with public policy made me an activist."  Professor Longmore advocates for the Disability Rights Movement to evolve into the Disability Culture Movement.  "...disability culture asserts that disability is not to be hidden, healed, or even overcome.  Disability is a culture, full of shared history and experiences that should be honored and practiced."  "...a quest for collective identity."  Priofessor Longmore died on August 9, 2010. 


John Hockenberry

National News correspondent, author of Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs and Declarations of Independence.


Richard Pimentel

Disability Rights Activist, Author, Trainer and one of the prime movers behind the Americans With Disabilities Act.  "There is nothing wrong with people with disabilities. There is something wrong with the way that we react to them."   The movie "Music Within" is based on his life.

Neil Marcus

Born 1954.  Self-described "fantastic spastic, creatively endowed with disability."  Poet, humorist, writer, actor, adventurer, artist.  "Disability is not a 'brave struggle' or 'courage in the face of adversity.'  Disability is an art.  It's an ingenious way to live."  "Accessibility means you feel O.K. about being in a place."   "At the forefront of the disabled movement, there must be disabled art.  Art which represents disabled people, the pride of our being, the character of our culture and the vision of our future."



Our apologies to the many, many disability rights activists not listed here.

Instead of charity and pity, how about:
  • Equal access to education
  • Equal access to employment
  • Equal access to housing
  • Equal access to public transportation
  • Equal access to health care
  • Equal access to community involvement
  • Equal access to vote



"NOT DEAD YET"  -  Bob Kafka

"Nothing About Us, Without Us"

"Attitudes are the real disability" - Henry Holden

(Living with a disability) "...is a life of continual adjustment to the stigmatizing forces of society and living in absence of full citizenship on the negative side and becoming a whole person through disability pride and culture, self-awareness and growth on the positive side."  -  Randy Borst, Director of Disability Services, University at Buffalo, SUNY