Friday marked more than the opening of my Etsy Store, EdgyAmelia. June 22, 2012 was the tenth anniversary of the death of Justin Dart, an important leader of the international disability rights movement. Dart is most known for helping to pass the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was signed into law in 1990. Less known is his involvement in disability rights in Japan and Vietnam, and his advocacy on behalf of women, people of color, and gay and lesbian rights.
Justin Dart suffered polio in 1948, and became a wheelchair user as a result of his illness. LImited in mobility but not ambition, he went on to become the entrepreneur of Japan Tupperware, where he employed people with disabilities who had previously been living in institutions. He visited Vietnam in 1966, and discovering horrific conditions in a rehabilitation center for children with polio, he abandoned his business career, and devoted himself to disability rights advocacy, where he helped pave wide paths of inclusion and accessibility that present day advocates travel upon.
Justin Dart has many eloquent quotes that speak to this passion for advocating for the full rights for people with disabilities. It is difficult to pick just one quote to showcase here, but I have chosen one that speaks to the parallels in Justin Dart’s life and that of German Choc.
“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.” I see many intertwining threads in the stories of Justin Dart and German Choc. Both men use wheelchairs, Justin had a successful business career, and with the support of specific individuals, German will operate a store.
Justin Dart’s words also speak a simple truth about my own life, cutting to the core of why I am raising funds to help German become economically self-sufficient and have access to the ongoing medical care he needs. The notion of reciprocity and inclusion in Justin Dart’s words–he cannot achieve without others empowering him, and he cannot accomplish without empowering others–also calls to mind a tenant of the disability rights movement and the title of my post, “Nothing about us without us.”