No announcement yet.

Disabilities activist Justin Dart Jr. dies

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

    Disabilities activist Justin Dart Jr. dies

    Disabilities activist Justin Dart Jr. dies
    June 22, 2002 Posted: 2:00 PM EDT (1800 GMT)

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Justin Dart Jr., an activist who for more than five decades worked in his wheelchair to champion the cause of people with disabilities, died in Washington Saturday at age 71.

    Dart was regarded among the fathers of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the landmark 1990 civil rights law for the disabled, and in 1998 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton.

    "He was one of our country's greatest warriors in the fight for civil rights for people with disabilities," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts. "He was a friend of mine, and I will miss him very much."

    Born in Chicago in 1930, Dart contracted polio in 1948 and used a wheelchair since then. He began working for the disabled from that time, when he was a student at the University of Houston, and went on to become chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities in the Reagan administration.

    That appointment came after Dart quit as commissioner of the Education Department's rehabilitation agency after he complained in testimony to Congress about the government's "paternalistic attitudes about disability."

    In 1990 he received the first pen used by former President Bush at the signing ceremony for the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Dart founded and was chief executive of Japan Tupperware Inc. His father, the late Justin Dart, was a California industrialist and close friend of President Reagan.

    Dart is survived by his wife Yoshiko and five daughters. His niece, Mari Dart, said the family plans a private memorial service to be followed by a large celebration on July 26, the 12th anniversary of the ADA.

    ~See you at the SCIWire-used-to-be-paralyzed Reunion ~
    ~See you at the CareCure-used-to-be-paralyzed Reunion ~

    I am so sorry to hear this. I knew and admired Justin. I am very sad. Wise.


      An amazing man who will be missed.

      I am thankful for his efforts.

      God bless his family.

      Onward and Upward!



        "Justin Dart, An Obituary"

        June 22, 2002

        By Fred Fay and Fred Pelka, written at Justin Dart's

        Justin Dart, Jr., a leader of the international disability
        rights movement and a renowned human rights activist, died
        last night at his home in Washington D.C. Widely
        recognized as "the father of the Americans with
        Disabilities Act" and "the godfather of the disability
        rights movement," Dart had for the past several years
        struggled with the complications of post-polio syndrome and
        congestive heart failure. He was seventy-one years old. He
        is survived by his wife Yoshiko, their extended family of
        foster children, his many friends and colleagues, and
        millions of disability and human rights activists all over
        the world.

        Dart was a leader in the disability rights movement for
        three decades, and an advocate for the rights of women,
        people of color, and gays and lesbians. The recipient of
        five presidential appointments and numerous honors,
        including the Hubert Humphrey Award of the Leadership
        Conference on Civil Rights, Dart was on the podium on the
        White House lawn when President George H. Bush signed the
        ADA into law in July 1990. Dart was also a highly
        successful entrepreneur, using his personal wealth to
        further his human rights agenda by generously contributing
        to organizations, candidates, and individuals, becoming
        what he called "a little PAC for empowerment."

        In 1998 Dart received the Presidential Medal of Freedom,
        the nation's highest civilian award. "Justin Dart," said
        President Clinton in 1996, "in his own way has the most
        Olympian spirit I believe I have ever come across."

        Until the end, Dart remained dedicated to his vision of a
        "revolution of empowerment." This would be, he said, "a
        revolution that confronts and eliminates obsolete thoughts
        and systems, that focuses the full power of science and
        free-enterprise democracy on the systematic empowerment of
        every person to live his or her God-given potential." Dart
        never hesitated to emphasize the assistance he received
        from those working with him, most especially his wife of
        more than thirty years, Yoshiko Saji. "She is," he often
        said, "quite simply the most magnificent human being I have
        ever met."

        Time and again Dart stressed that his achievements were
        only possible with the help of hundreds of activists,
        colleagues, and friends. "There is nothing I have achieved,
        and no addiction I have overcome, without the love and
        support of specific individuals who reached out to empower
        me... There is nothing I have accomplished without
        reaching out to empower others." Dart protested the fact
        that he and only three other disability activists were on
        the podium when President Bush signed the ADA, believing
        that "hundreds of others should have been there as well."
        After receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Dart
        sent out replicas of the award to hundreds of disability
        rights activists across the country, writing that, "this
        award belongs to you."

        Justin Dart, Jr., was born on August 29, 1930, into a
        wealthy and prominent family. His grandfather was the
        founder of the Walgreen Drugstore chain, his father a
        successful business executive, his mother a matron of the
        American avant garde. Dart would later describe how he
        became "a super loser" as a way of establishing his own
        identity in this family of "super winners." He attended
        seven high schools, not graduating from any of them, and
        broke Humphrey Bogart's all-time record for the number of
        demerits earned by a student at elite Andover prep. "People
        didn't like me. I didn't like myself."

        Dart contracted polio in 1948. With doctors saying he had
        less than three days to live, he was admitted into the
        Seventh Day Adventist Medical University in Los Angeles.
        "For the first time in my life I was surrounded by people
        who were openly expressing love for each other, and for me,
        even though I was hostile to them. And so I started
        smiling at people, and saying nice things to them. And
        they responded, treating me even better. It felt so good!"
        Three days turned into forty years, but Dart never forgot
        this lesson. Polio left Dart a wheelchair user, but he
        never grieved about this. "I count the good days in my
        life from the time I got polio. These beautiful people not
        only saved my life, they made it worth saving."

        Another turning point was Dart's discovery in 1949 of the
        philosophy of Mohandas K. Gandhi. Dart defined Gandhi's
        message as, "Find your own truth, and then live it." This
        theme too would stay with him for the rest of his life.
        Dart attended the University of Houston from 1951 to 1954,
        earning his bachelor's and master's degrees in political
        science and history. He wanted to be a teacher, but the
        university withheld his teaching certificate because he was
        a wheelchair user. During his time in college, Dart
        organized his first human rights group -- a pro-integration
        student group at what was then a whites-only institution.

        Dart went into business in 1956, building several
        successful companies in Mexico and Japan. He started Japan
        Tupperware with three employees in 1963, and by 1965 it had
        expanded to some 25,000. Dart used his businesses to
        provide work for women and people with disabilities. In
        Japan, for example, he took severely disabled people out of
        institutions, gave them paying jobs within his company, and
        organized some of them into Japan's first wheelchair
        basketball team. It was during this time he met his wife,

        The final turning point in Dart's life came during a visit
        to Vietnam in 1966, to investigate the status of
        rehabilitation in that war-torn country. Visiting a
        "rehabilitation center" for children with polio, Dart
        instead found squalid conditions where disabled children
        were left on concrete floors to starve. One child, a young
        girl dying there before him, took his hand and looked into
        his eyes. "That scene," he would later write, "is burned
        forever in my soul. For the first time in my life I
        understood the reality of evil, and that I was a part of
        that reality."

        The Darts returned to Japan, but terminated their business
        interests. After a period of meditation in a dilapidated
        farmhouse, the two decided to dedicate themselves entirely
        to the cause of human and disability rights. They moved to
        Texas in 1974, and immersed themselves in local
        disability activism. From 1980 to 1985, Dart was a member,
        and then chair, of the Texas Governor's Committee for
        Persons with Disabilities. His work in Texas became a
        pattern for what was to follow: extensive meetings with the
        grassroots, followed by a call for the radical empowerment
        of people with disabilities, followed by tireless advocacy
        until victory was won.

        In 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed Dart to be the
        vice-chair of the National Council on Disability. The
        Darts embarked on a nationwide tour, at their own expense,
        meeting with activists in every state. Dart and others on
        the Council drafted a national policy that called for
        national civil rights legislation to end the centuries old
        discrimination of people with disabilities -- what would
        eventually become the Americans with Disabilities Act of

        In 1986, Dart was appointed to head the Rehabilitation
        Services Administration, a $3 billion federal agency that
        oversees a vast array of programs for disabled people.
        Dart called for radical changes, and for including people
        with disabilities in every aspect of designing,
        implementing, and monitoring rehabilitation programs.
        Resisted by the bureaucracy, Dart dropped a bombshell when
        he testified at a public hearing before Congress that the
        RSA was "a vast, inflexible federal system which, like the
        society it represents, still contains a significant portion
        of individuals who have not yet overcome obsolete,
        paternalistic attitudes about disability." Dart was asked
        to resign his position, but remained a supporter of both
        Presidents Reagan and Bush. In 1989, Dart was appointed
        chair of the President's Committee on the Employment of
        People with Disabilities, shifting its focus from its
        traditional stance of urging business to "hire the
        handicapped" to advocating for full civil rights for people
        with disabilities.

        Dart is best known for his work in passing the Americans
        with Disabilities Act. In 1988, he was appointed, along
        with parents' advocate Elizabeth Boggs, to chair the
        Congressional Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of
        Americans with Disabilities. The Darts again toured the
        country at their own expense, visiting every state, Puerto
        Rico, Guam, and the District of Columbia, holding public
        forums attended by more than 30,000 people. Everywhere he
        went, Dart touted the ADA as "the civil rights act of the
        future." Dart also met extensively with members of
        Congress and staff, as well as President Bush, Vice
        President Quayle, and members of the Cabinet. At one
        point, seeing Dart at a White House reception, President
        Bush introduced him as "the ADA man." The ADA was signed
        into law on July 26, 1990, an anniversary that is
        celebrated each year by "disability pride" events all
        across the country.

        While taking pride in passage of the ADA, Dart was always
        quick to list all the others who shared in the struggle:
        Robert Silverstein and Robert Burgdorf, Patrisha Wright and
        Tony Coelho, Fred Fay and Judith Heumann, among many
        others. And Dart never wavered in his commitment to
        disability solidarity, insisting that all people with
        disabilities be protected by the law and included in the
        coalition to pass it -- including mentally ill "psychiatric
        survivors" and people with HIV/AIDS. Dart called this his
        "politics of inclusion," a companion to his "politics of
        principle, solidarity, and love."

        After passage of the ADA, Dart threw his energy into the
        fight for universal health care, again campaigning across
        the country, and often speaking from the same podium as
        President and Mrs. Clinton. With the defeat of universal
        health care, Dart was among the first to identify the
        coming backlash against disability rights. He resigned all
        his positions to become "a full-time citizen soldier in the
        trenches of justice." With the conservative Republican
        victory in Congress in 1994, followed by calls to amend or
        even repeal the ADA and the Individuals with Disabilities
        Education Act (or IDEA), Dart, and disability rights
        advocates Becky Ogle and Frederick Fay, founded Justice for
        All, what Dart called "a SWAT team" to beat back these
        attacks. Again, Dart was tireless -- traveling, speaking,
        testifying, holding conference calls, presiding over
        meetings, calling the media on its distortions of the ADA,
        and flooding the country with American flag stickers that
        said, "ADA, IDEA, America Wins." Both laws were saved.
        Dart again placed the credit with "the thousands of
        grassroots patriots" who wrote and e-mailed and lobbied.
        But there can be no doubt that without Dart's leadership,
        the outcome might have been entirely different.

        In 1996, confronted by a Republican Party calling for "a
        retreat from Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln democracy,"
        Dart campaigned for the re-election of President Clinton.
        This was a personally difficult "decision of conscience."
        Dart had been a Republican for most of his life, and had
        organized the disability constituency campaigns of both
        Ronald Reagan and George Bush, campaigning against Clinton
        in 1992. But in a turnabout that was reported in the New
        York Times and the Washington Post, Dart went all out for
        Clinton, even speaking at the Democratic National
        Convention in Chicago. The Darts yet again undertook a
        whirlwind tour of the country, telling people to "get into
        politics as if your life depended on it. It does." At his
        speech the day after the election, President Clinton
        publicly thanked Dart for personally campaigning in all
        fifty states, and cited his efforts as "one reason we won
        some of those states."

        Dart suffered a series of heart attacks in late 1997, which
        curtailed his ability to travel. He continued, however, to
        lobby for the rights of people with disabilities, and
        attended numerous events, rallies, demonstrations and
        public hearings. Toward the end of his life, Dart was hard
        at work on a political manifesto that would outline his
        vision of "the revolution of empowerment." In its
        conclusion, he urged his "Beloved colleagues in struggle,
        listen to the heart of this old soldier. Our lives, our
        children's lives, the quality of the lives of billions in
        future generations hangs in the balance. I cry out to you
        from the depths of my being. Humanity needs you! Lead!
        Lead! Lead the revolution of empowerment!"

        Today, disabled people across the country and around the
        world will grieve at the passing of Justin Dart, Jr. But
        we will celebrate his love and his commitment to justice.
        Please join us at in expressing our condolences to Yoshiko
        and her family during this difficult time. Keep in mind,
        however, that it was Justin's wish that any service or
        commemoration be used by activists to celebrate our
        movement, and as an opportunity to recommit themselves to
        "the revolution of empowerment."