Yesterday, our nation celebrated the life of civil rights pioneer Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He is recognized as one of the most influential civil rights activists of the 20th Century. With peaceful protests including lunch counter sit-ins and marches to Washington, D.C., Dr. King created a better future for underserved populations. After Dr. King promoted the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, another human rights activist promoted change.
Justin Dart is considered an international pioneer of disability rights advocacy. Dart contracted Polio as a teenager and used a wheelchair for mobility. In the 1980s, he and his wife, Yoshiko, traveled the country to collect stories from individuals to show the difficulties and injustices of people living with disabilities. With an ambition to create social change, the Darts lead the way to improved equality and were vital contributors to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.
Dart played an instrumental role as part of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) for a few years before his death in 2002. I had the honor of being the recipient of the NCIL Auto Fund that was sponsored by the Darts in 2008. Although I never had the opportunity to meet Dart, his legacy lives on through his widow and others in the independent living community.
Both men have inspired generations. As Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” They have inspired generations. According to Dart, we should all be encouraged to “Lead on”!