Bancroft Honors African American Pioneers and Advocates Who Made A Difference in Special Education and Disability Rights
Bancroft joins in celebrating Black History Month and recognizing the countless contributions African Americans have made in our nation’s history.
Throughout this month, we will be spotlighting those who have made a difference in the world of disabilities, disability rights, and special education. Some names you may know; others, you might not — but each one has, in their own way, helped to make our #oneworld a better, stronger, and more inclusive place for all.
Sylvia Walker (1937-2004) was Director of the Center for Disability and Socioeconomic Policy Studies and the Howard University Research and Training Center. She served as Vice-Chair of the President’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities. She was a champion for disability rights and her research helped lead to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
To learn more about Sylvia, click here.
Betty Williams is a former president of Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE), an organization of people with intellectual/developmental disabilities. She has served as president of People First of Indiana and has coordinated consumer education and training with the Arc of Indiana.
Betty passed on in 2018, however her indomitable spirit can be felt through all those she supported, mentored, and whose work she strengthened. Check out this beautiful tribute video made in her loving memory by The Arc of Indiana.
For more of her motivational movements check here.
Lois Curtis is an African American artist and activist with a mental health disability and intellectual/developmental disability. During her childhood and early adulthood, she lived in state-run institutions, and her requests to live in the community were repeatedly denied. She sued the state of Georgia, and her case went to the Supreme Court. In the now-famous L.C. v. Olmstead decision, the Court declared that Curtis and other people with disabilities have a right to live in the community and to be provided adequate support. The Court said the unnecessary institutionalization is a form of segregation and is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Curtis now lives in the community.
“Curtis is a woman of vision and courage who has enabled all of us to have a chance to put our own visions of our lives into the world.”
Johnnie Lacy (1937-2010) was a leader in the independent living movement and fought for the rights of people with disabilities, especially people of color. She led Community Resources for Independent Living, a nonprofit in Hayward, California, providing services and advocacy. Lacy spoke of being excluded from the Black community due to her disability and from the disability community due to being a person of color. As a Black woman in a wheelchair, she educated her communities about race and disability and served as a role model for many other Black disabled women.