CEO Patricia Yeager to Retire; Indy Frazee Named as Successor

After 10 years as The Independence Center’s (The IC’s) chief executive officer, Patricia Yeager, Ph.D., has announced she will retire from the organization effective November 1, 2021. At that time, Indy Frazee, currently The IC’s home health administrator, will assume the role of CEO.

Yeager, who has a hearing disability, has spent her entire career promoting and advocating for the rights of people with disabilities. She served as the executive director of the Denver Center for Independent Living from 1989-1991, held the same position for the Access Center of San Diego from 1992-1997, and again for the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers from 1997-2005. She moved back to Colorado in 2006 to complete her Ph.D. in rehabilitation administration and in 2011, was offered the job of CEO at The Independence Center.

In the years since joining The IC, Yeager has been instrumental in modernizing the organization, expanding the services and supports it offers to people with disabilities, and growing its reputation as a trusted resource within the community and beyond. Under her leadership, The IC has worked with city, state, and business leaders to improve their understanding of disability and how they approach accessibility. From advocating for Americans with Disabilities (ADA) compliance within the city, to insisting on inclusion in emergency preparations, to providing health care providers with accessible medical equipment, Yeager has helped change Southern Colorado’s social and physical landscape for people with disabilities.

“It has been my honor and privilege to serve as The IC’s CEO. I’m so proud of the work the staff and I have done over the last decade to help people with disabilities create the lives they want to live. But I believe now is the right time for me to retire,” she said. “The IC is on solid footing and positioned for future growth and success. Our board and senior leadership team have a solid vision that will help guide The IC for years to come. Most importantly, I have great confidence in Indy’s ability to take the organization to the next level.  After working closely with her over the last seven years, I know that she has both the skillset and the passion for our mission that is so necessary in this position.”

Upon Yeager’s recommendation, and after an interview last June, the organization’s board of directors unanimously selected Frazee as chief executive officer.  Frazee joined The IC in 2014 as its chief financial officer, where she built a responsive and efficient accounting, information technology, and facilities team. In 2018, she took on the role of home health administrator, once again building a solid, cohesive team that provides crucial in-home health care services to area residents. Under her leadership, the team was able to continue providing the same high-quality care and service throughout the unprecedented health care crisis brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most recently, before joining The IC, Frazee served as the director of finance for Goodwill of Colorado for six years, where she was instrumental in shaping the strategic plan for the organization. Prior to that, she was the investment operations manager, treasurer, and secretary of Mountain Asset Management. Frazee holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Colorado State University and received a Master of Business Administration from the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs.

“I’m excited and humbled to have the opportunity to lead The IC into the future and I look forward to building on Patricia’s legacy,” Frazee said. “It is important to me that we continue to grow our mission and look for ways to expand our message and reach. By providing critical supports and services to people with disabilities, while also advocating for change on both a local and national level, our goal will be to focus on the unique abilities of our community, so that all are known, valued and included.”

Image of Patricia Yeager and Indy Frazee

Patricia Yeager, CEO of The IC, and Indy Frazee, incoming CEO

Amtrak Agrees to Settlement Over Alleged ADA Violations

In February of this year, Amtrak agreed to pay $2.25 million to settle a lawsuit due to an alleged lack of accessibility at some of the company’s 500 stations. According to the company’s settlement website:

“If you were harmed by Amtrak’s lack of accessible transportation services between July 27, 2013 and December 2, 2020 you may be eligible to receive payment from a compensation fund established by Amtrak.

“To be eligible for consideration for possible payment, you must submit a claim by May 29, 2021.  You may obtain information on how to submit a claim in several ways:

(1) by submitting a claim form online,

(2) by sending an email with your name, address, and telephone number to info@AmtrakDisabilitySettlement.com, or

(3) by calling the Fund Administrator at (888) 334-6165 or TTY: (866) 411-6976.”

A copy of the Settlement Agreement, along with additional information, can be found at AmtrakDisabilitySettlement.com.

Accessible Icon
Courtesy of The Accessible Icon Project

Saying Thanks During National Nurse’s Week 2021

Day in and day out, nurses give their all to provide care and comfort as they protect and save lives. While nurses always work hard, never has their impact been more apparent than over the last year. Whether in emergency rooms or ICUs, doctors’ offices or vaccination clinics, these consummate medical professionals are always there when we need them the most.

While they deserve more recognition than they get, National Nurse’s Week – which runs from May 6 – 12th (Florence Nightingale’s birthday) – is one small way to let them know they’re appreciated. If you’d like to join us in celebrating those in the nursing profession, here are a few ideas:

  1. Send a hand-written note or e-card to your favorite nurse(s).
  2. Drop off some goodies from a local bakery.
  3. Purchase several $5 coffee shop gift cards (nurses always need caffeine!) and drop them off at your doctor’s office.
  4. Use social media to publicly express your thanks using hashtags like #ThankaNurse or #NationalNursesWeek.
  5. Make a donation to a fund or charity that directly benefits nurses, like the Coronavirus Response Fund for Nurses.

The gesture doesn’t have to be extravagant to make an impact. Just a warm smile and a sincere “thank you” is often enough to let them know they’re valued.

From all of us at The Independence Center to nurses everywhere – thank you for all you do!

Female nurse taking the blood pressure of a female patient.

CEO Corner: Thank You to Our Staff

Photo of Patricia Yeager, CEO of The ICLate last year, The Independence Center (The IC) was named one of The Gazette’s “Best Workplaces” for 2020. This award is especially meaningful to me because it comes directly from our staff. Unbeknownst to me, a number of employees nominated The IC for the award. Once the nomination was official, almost 50% of our Home Health, Independent Living, and Administrative staff members then completed a lengthy survey about our work environment. It speaks volumes about the good will staff members have toward The IC that they would take the time and care enough to do this.

With around 330 employees, The IC was one of several “best workplaces” in the Extra-Large Companies category.  Clearly, The IC is no longer a small, unknown nonprofit in Colorado Springs.  Since 2011 we have doubled our employees and our revenues, purchased a second building, and now have satellite offices (for traveling staff) across our service area.  New programs have sprung up, while others have been phased out. Today, we are considered a national model for other Centers for Independent Living throughout the country. Through all the changes, our staff has been the backbone of what we do.  Without them, people with disabilities would not receive the services, supports, and advocacy that help ensure their participation and visibility in our local community.

The leadership at The IC understands that change and growth can have both a positive and negative effect on morale. So, we do our best to create an atmosphere of appreciation and support for our staff. We provide training, opportunities for creative thinking, and a comfortable, healthy space (even virtually) for staff members and consumers alike. Most importantly, we work to promote an environment that assumes positive intent and generates trust and respect. We believe if staff have the tools, knowledge, and support they need, our consumers and their families will benefit by getting the care and services they need to move closer to their goals.

I am so proud of our staff and feel blessed to be part of a group who is passionate about the work they do. Time and again, I have heard employees say they feel lucky to have jobs where they can make a difference in the lives of others. I say that the Pikes Peak Region is lucky to have such a wonderful team working hard every day, whether in person or virtually, to make sure that our community of people with disabilities can create the lives they want.

To the staff – past, present, and future – thank you for building the strong foundation that allows this organization to serve the people that we do with such love and success.

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Happy Trails: Making the City’s Open Spaces More Accessible

Drew Wills loves a challenge. On any given day, you can find the Colorado Springs attorney on a mountain biking trail in Stratton Open Space, attacking steep climbs and tackling technical tracks. But unlike most of the other riders on the trail, Drew pedals with his hands while flying down hills headfirst.

A lifelong cyclist and outdoor athlete, Drew began handcycling after a skiing accident left him with paraplegia. A fierce competitor, it didn’t take long for him to make a name for himself in on- and off-road cycling events. He was the only handcyclist to enter and complete the initial Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb from Manitou Springs, and the first to complete the 110-mile Tour de Steamboat, the Durango-to-Silverton Iron Horse, and the Bob Cook Memorial Hill Climb, which starts in Idaho Springs and ends at the top of Mount Evans. Along the way, he’s set numerous records and won a number of off-road world championships.

But these days, he says he’s “kind of over” his own individual accomplishments being in the spotlight. In the last several years, his priority has become breaking down literal and figurative barriers for himself and others with disabilities. A former board member for The Independence Center, he is passionate about helping other people who use wheelchairs stay healthy and fit and live more independently.

Image of Drew sitting on handbike on trail
Photo courtesy Jeanie Wills

Image courtesy Jeanie Wills

It’s not surprising, then, that he took quick action when he arrived one day for a ride and found his usual trail being rebuilt. After speaking to the trail volunteers, he learned that the trail was being redesigned for a very good reason; it would help prevent erosion. “Unfortunately, the new trail they were creating was on severe side slope,” says Drew. “The way my handcycle is configured, my wheels are three feet apart. So if the trail is not wide enough, it’ll tip me over.”

The volunteers put Drew in touch with Dan Allen, trail project specialist with the City of Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation Department. After years spent as both a lawyer and a disability advocate, Drew prepared himself to be confronted by miles of red tape, bureaucracy, and excuses. But Dan was friendly and responsive, and offered to meet Drew at the trailhead to talk.

Once Dan saw the handcycle, he immediately understood the issue. By the end of their meeting, Dan told Drew that they would fix the trail so that it would accommodate him and other handcyclists. “And I’ll be darned if they didn’t start on it the very next day,” says Drew.

For his part, Dan saw this as a learning opportunity.

“I wasn’t quite sure what a handcycle was or what it was capable of so, what I learned from that experience, we’re definitely applying to our trail design,” he told news station KRDO in an interview about the project. “It was a few extra hours of work but I feel like, we want to make sure all members of the community are welcome and out here enjoying our open spaces.”

Dan and his team not only used what they learned to redesign the trails at Stratton Open Space, they are working to improve accessibility at several other trails at parks around the city, including Red Rocks Open Space. The wider trails not only benefit people with disabilities, they also ensure that the community’s natural areas can be enjoyed by everyone from serious mountain bikers to parents pushing strollers.

“This has been the best example of somebody responding immediately and going the extra mile to make it work,” Drew says. “They could have, as I have experienced in the past, had somebody say, we don’t have the money for that or it’s not feasible or this is all planned and we can’t change it now. But that just didn’t happen. It was just a great example of the way things ought to be.”

Interested in trying out a handcycle for yourself? Many of Colorado’s ski resorts offer adaptive winter and summer recreation opportunities. Check out Crested Butte’s Adaptive Sports Center, the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, or Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports (STARS).

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Partnership with County Ensures Equal Access to Vaccine Resources

Local, state, and federal governments are working quickly to get the COVID-19 vaccine to as many people as possible. El Paso County Public Health (EPCPH) is no exception. As of April 13, 2021, almost 200,000 residents aged 16 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the County’s COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard.

However, the message can be slower and more difficult to get out to certain segments of the population than others. For people with disabilities, this can be because of uncertainty about how to get the vaccine, whether the vaccine location will be able to accommodate them, and whether American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters will be available.

To help address these concerns, The Independence Center reached out to EPCPH about creating and distributing a fully accessible video with vaccination information. Michelle Hewitt, Public Health Information Officer for EPCPH, immediately understood the value of the project and signed on to help produce the video.

“El Paso County Public Health is committed to increasing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines by reducing barriers such as language, technology, transportation and geography,” notes Hewitt. “It’s imperative that everyone has access to the resources and facts they need to make an informed decision, and to make it as easy as possible to get connected to a vaccine provider.”

With the County onboard, The IC enlisted the help of Amelia Dall, a Deaf archeologist who also provides consulting services, video production, and ASL translation. Dall signed, filmed, edited, and captioned the video, which was then sent to Jennifer Schreuder, City of Colorado Springs Communications Specialist, for voiceover work. The completed video resides on EPCPH’s Webinars and Education webpage, as well as The IC’s COVID-19 resource page.

In addition to the video, EPCPH has also added an ASL interpreter icon next to clinics that have Video Remote Interpreting so Deaf individuals can easily find which clinics can accommodate them.

“We are so thankful for this valuable partnership with EPCPH,” says Patricia Yeager, CEO of The IC. “Their willingness to collaborate with us on this project ensures that all members of our community have equal access to the vital health care they need to keep themselves and others safe.”

You can view the video below or by visiting our YouTube page.

To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine and where you can get vaccinated, visit elpasocountyhealth.org.

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Accessible Masks: The Difference Is Clear

Imagine going to bed one night and waking up in a world in which you can’t understand anyone. To make matters worse, you find it impossible to tell if othersTwo women wearing clear masks sit at a desk. are trying to communicate with you in the first place.  It may sound far-fetched, but this has been the reality for countless d/Deaf and hard of hearing (DHOH) individuals since mask mandates went into effect due to the pandemic.

Face coverings are an essential tool to help contain the spread of coronavirus. However, traditional masks obscure lip and facial movements, making communication difficult for people who are DHOH or who have sensory disabilities like autism. Because 93 percent of all communication is nonverbal, even individuals without hearing loss can struggle to understand each other with masks on.

For Rebecca Hull, who is Deaf, the constant struggle to communicate with others has made the most mundane tasks frustrating and exhausting.

“Think about interacting with the cashier at the grocery store,” she says. “As a Deaf person, if I don’t see the cashier’s lips moving, how am I to know they are asking me questions?”

Fortunately, Rebecca is also one of The IC’s Outreach Specialists and a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology/National Technical Institute for the Deaf (RIT/NTID). Thanks to her unique skillset, she was perfectly positioned to advocate for and implement an initiative to address this issue.

“Real change occurs when we take the time to educate that disability is not the problem. Instead, it is the lack of accessible or alternative resources that creates a barrier,” she notes. “The example of masks during a pandemic illustrates this point. We can provide an accessible alternative to the mainstream option.”

As Rebecca saw it, one alternative was to provide masks with clear windows to DHOH individuals or those who regularly interact with them, like teachers and health care workers. Leadership at The IC quickly approved the project and the Pikes Peak Community Foundation Emergency Relief Fund generously provided a grant to purchase two different types of masks and a number of face shields.

The response from the community was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. Over 2,000 masks and face shields were requested and distributed.

“The excitement and appreciation we felt from our community has been enormous,” says Michele Chamberlain, Independent Living Manager at The IC.  “Making a difference in our community is why we are here.  We did that with this project.”

Kimberly Kieffer has seen firsthand the difference the masks have made. A school counselor at Academy Endeavor Elementary, Kimberly says the masks have been a gamechanger for the hard of hearing students she works with. “It’s been a challenge, all school year, to find a mask that is safe, fits well enough for me to teach/converse, and allows my students to see my lips,” she observes. “These masks are being used with the population for which they are intended and very appreciated.”

These are the kinds of success stories that Rebecca hopes will lead to more awareness surrounding the need for accessibility, both now and when the pandemic is over.

“The goal of this project was to promote awareness on how we can effectively communicate without compromising safety during a pandemic,” she says. “Though we’re a year into the pandemic, this is a great time to start this conversation. Hopefully, this will encourage more doctors and nurses to utilize clear mask options to communicate with their patients long after COVID-19 cases decline.”

Although the giveaway has ended, there are a number of resources available to purchase accessible masks, including the Rafi Nova Smile Mask (reusable) and ClearMask (disposable).

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Housing Q&A

Home. It’s a word that means different things to different people. Safety. Security. Stability. Comfort. A home is more than just four walls and a roof. It’s the place where we start and end our days. Where we prepare our meals and celebrate holidays. Where we make memories.

The staff who work in The IC’s Housing Department understand the positive impact having a home can have on one’s life. By assisting individuals in finding a place to live, they help unlock the door to a brighter future.

The Housing team is made up of four dedicated Housing Coordinators – Sara Callender, Nicole Faucher, Daveda Eisenstein, and Grant Langdon. Recently, we sat down with Sara and Nicole to find out more about what they do and how they help others achieve greater independence through housing.

What is the role of a Housing Coordinator at The IC?

Sara Callender (SC): People often think we’re case managers but we’re not. As Housing Coordinators, we typically coordinate with other agencies and partners. These agencies work directly with individuals to help them fill out an application to get housing vouchers. Once they’ve been determined to be eligible for a voucher, they come to us and we help them through the process of finding a place to live.

Nicole Faucher (NF): We also field many calls from people coming to Colorado Springs. They don’t have vouchers but we are able to share our resources and other information that can help them find housing.

What should someone with a housing voucher expect when they reach out to The IC?

SC: First, we meet with them to do a briefing and to do all the necessary paperwork to accept the voucher. Then, we give them the voucher, along with housing resources to help them look for a home. Once they find a home, we’ll work with the landlord to determine that it’s within the payment standard of the voucher.

Before the pandemic, we would go out and do an inspection because it has to pass certain requirements from the State. Right now, we’re asking individuals to complete and return paperwork that they have inspected the unit. Then they sign the lease and move in!

Once a year, we meet with them to determine that they are still eligible for their voucher. During that year, we remind them that if their income changes, they need to let us know because their rent amount is determined by their income.

So The IC doesn’t find a place for them?

SC: That’s one of the biggest misconceptions. We don’t do it for you. We give you the tools to find a place to live. You get to pick where you want to live, as long as it falls within the payment standard.

What if someone needs a place that’s outside the payment standard?

NF: People with disabilities can request a reasonable accommodation for a higher payment standard so they can live where they want to live and how they want to live. If they want to do that, we educate and support them and help them present a reasonable accommodation request to the State for review. Sometimes it gets bounced back and we tweak it a bit. But more often than not, reasonable accommodations are approved.

Sometimes it’s about time rather than money. Vouchers are time-sensitive. They get 120 days to find a place and then the vouchers expire. So if they get close to the 120 days and they haven’t found anything, they need to do a reasonable accommodation to ask for more time.

Can anyone work with The IC’s Housing program or do you just work with people with disabilities?

SC: The majority of our voucher holders have a disability. But we do work with some people who don’t have a disability, or someone in their family might have a disability but they might not be the head of household.

The IC’s Housing Department operates on the “housing first” philosophy. Tell us a little about that.

NF: “Housing first” means that once you have a home and all that goes with that – heat, water, a bed – you can then move forward and really improve your life. You can get a job now because you’ve slept well, you can take a shower, you have a refrigerator to put your food in. You can just really begin to enjoy your life no matter what happened prior to that. It’s such a big part of becoming independent.

Housing is a win-win. It’s a win for families and individuals, obviously. But it’s a win for the community, too, to have people in homes.

What is your favorite part of your job?

NF: Being part of the process of helping someone find a home makes me so happy. I am always so excited to share information with people. I feel like we empower them and it’s so inspiring.

SC: Back in the good old days before COVID, I loved to sit with people and do a briefing in person. I would just ask them to talk about themselves and ask them about their hopes and dreams. To introduce them to the program and let them know that they’re going to pick their own home, cook their own meals, and sleep in their own bed – it’s pretty exciting.

If you are looking for housing resources in the area, call 719-471-8181 to speak to someone in The IC’s Housing Department.

Photo of keys in the lock of a door

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Removing Barriers, One Vote at a Time

“My vote is my voice…and the voice of all who struggled so that I may have my voice.” – Lydia Obasi

The disability community in this country has a long history of advocating for change. From widescale protests to the simple act of asking for accommodations, people with disabilities have learned that advocacy is the key to creating a better world for themselves and others.

One of the best advocacy tools we have is our right to vote, but exercising that right hasn’t always been easy. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that voters with disabilities were granted the affirmative right to have necessary assistance in voting from a person of the voter’s choice. Since then, a number of pieces of legislations – including the Americans with Disabilities Act – have granted federal voting protections to those in the disability community.

While widespread accessibility in voting is becoming more commonplace, uncertainty about available accommodations can discourage those with disabilities from casting their votes. To help address this concern, The IC opened up its building as a Voter Polling and Service Center (VPSC) in last year’s general election. Because the building is fully accessible, The IC was able to accommodate people with all types of disabilities. Like other VPSCs in El Paso County, The IC had an ADA-accessible voting machine as well as an onsite ballot drop box. For those unable to make the trip – or uncomfortable doing so due to the pandemic – several of The IC’s staff volunteered their time to pick up completed ballots and deposit them in the drop box. In total, 300 people cast their votes at The IC.

“The Independence Center was thrilled to be able to serve our community by providing a fully accessible building for community members to exercise their vote,” said Deb Walker, The IC’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, who helped organize the effort. “As part of our commitment to civil rights for people with disabilities, we were proud to work with the County to ensure that all people can vote without barriers.”

To learn more about how to use self- and systems-advocacy to effect change in your own life, call The IC at 719-471-8181.

Image of woman at voting machine

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Celebrating the Lasting Legacy of Black Disability Advocates

As Black History Month winds down, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on the African-American civil rights movement and the impact that Black activists have made on the disability rights movement. Disability rights and African-American civil rights have always been closely aligned and often intersect. In fact, it is safe to say that the African-American civil rights movement, which started to grow in the early 1900s, paved the way for the disability rights movement that would follow years later.

One such example is the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education in Topeka, which ruled that separate schools for Black and white children are inherently unequal and unconstitutional. This pivotal decision became a catalyst for the African-American civil rights movement, which in turn helped inspire the disability rights movement. As many of us know, it wasn’t that long ago when children with disabilities could be kept segregated from mainstream schools and denied the same educational opportunities as their peers.

Over the years, many Black activists have been instrumental in shaping and advancing the disability rights movement. Below is an overview of some of these individuals below, but we encourage everyone to learn more about them and others who have helped lead the way.

A photo of Sylvia Walker with Jay Rochlin and Thomas McKeithan, 1990
Disability rights advocate, Dr. Sylvia Walker, with Jay Rochlin and Thomas McKeithan

Disability rights advocate, Dr. Sylvia Walker
(Photo courtesy of the Moorland-Springarn Research Center, Howard University Archives)

Dr. Sylvia Walker

Dr. Walker, who was blind, was a lifelong champion for minority persons with disabilities. She held four degrees and became a full-time professor at the esteemed Howard University in Washington, D.C. She was the founder and director of the Howard University Center for Disability and Socioeconomic Policy Studies (originally the Center for the Study of Handicapped Children and Youth at Howard University), which was the first federal Research and Training Center focused on minority issues. The author of numerous research papers and articles about the need for accessibility, education, and rehabilitation services among minority populations, Dr. Walker’s work contributed to the development and passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To honor her legacy, one of the conference rooms at The Independence Center bears her name. (Read more about Dr. Walker by clicking here.)

Brad Lomax

A disability rights/independent living movement leader, Brad Lomax who had multiple sclerosis (MS) and used a wheelchair. He participated in the famous 504 Sit-in in San Francisco, which was organized to demand that Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) secretary Joseph Califano sign the regulations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Most of the other sit-ins ended quickly, but the one in San Francisco was exceptionally well prepared, well organized, and well fed. This was in part due to Lomax’s connections to the Oakland Black Panthers. As noted in the recent documentary, Crip Camp, the Black Panthers publicly endorsed the action and carried hot meals from Oakland to San Francisco every day of the protest. Lomax and his attendant, Chuck Jackson, also became one of 14 individuals with disabilities and eight attendants selected to go to Washington D.C. to attempt to force a meeting with Califano. The sit-in became the longest peaceful occupation of a federal building in history and resulted in Califano signing the regulations. (Learn more about Brad Lomax by clicking here.) 

Johnnie Lacy

This social justice pioneer was one of the founding members of the first Center for Independent Living in Berkeley, California. She acquired a physical disability after contracting polio at the age of 19 and used a wheelchair for the rest of her life. She studied speech-language pathology at San Francisco State University, despite an attempt by the department head to block her from enrolling in the school. However, she was not allowed to be in the school or participate in her own graduation.  In a 1998 interview for UC Berkeley’s oral history archive, Lacy recalled, “. . . my final and departing shot to him was that if I were just a woman, he could not do this to me; if I were only a person of color, he would not be able to do this to me; the only way that you are able to take this unfair advantage is because I have a disability.” This experience spurred her to become an activist in the disability rights movement. In addition to her work at the Berkeley CIL, she spent her life educating about race and disability and served as a role model for many other Black women with disabilities. (Learn more about Johnnie Lacy by clicking here.)

Donald Galloway

Don Galloway became legally blind at the age of 13 after being struck in the eye with a friend’s bow and arrow. Even as a young man in the 1950s, he was an activist. In high school, he was vice president of the local junior branch of the NAACP and was a junior member of the National Federation of the Blind. He went on to become a key player in the early days of the independent living movement, after Ed Roberts invited him to work with the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley as its director of services for blind people. Later, he became executive director of the Governor’s Council on the Handicapped in Denver, followed by an appointment from 1978 to 1980 as Peace Corps director in Jamaica.  He also served as the director of the Center for Independent Living in Washington and in various leadership roles on many commissions and panels on disability rights. Through his activism and leadership, the IL movement – which was predominantly white in the 1970s – became much more diverse. (Learn more about Don Galloway by clicking here.)

These remarkable trailblazers left a lasting impact on civil rights for people with disabilities. As a blog post by the Orange Grove Center in California put it, “Black history shaped, and continues to shape, how African Americans and individuals with disabilities lead independent, self-affirming lives and are defined according to their personhood – their ideas, beliefs, hopes, and dreams – above and beyond their race and disability.”