Justin Dart, Jr.
Justin Dart, Jr. contracted polio at the age of 18. He nearly died and, upon recovery, required a wheelchair for mobility. Rather than grieving about his condition, he expressed gratitude to the doctors who not only saved his life, but “made it worth saving.”
Refused a teaching certificate from a Texas University because of his disability, he instead became a successful businessman in Japan. A turning- point came during a visit to a Saigon “rehabilitation center” for children with polio, where, he found children left on concrete floors to starve. The experience, Dart later said, “was like a branding iron burning…onto my soul.”
He dedicated his life to the cause of civil rights for people with disabilities. As vice-chair of the National Council on the Handicapped, and later as chair of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, he advocated for a single federal civil rights act for people with disabilities. Dart was on the dais when President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law in 1990 and was a good friend and strong supporter for ADAPT activists.
Dart later co-founded an organization for defending the ADA and continued to support persons with disabilities through lecturing and advocacy work. He will always be known as the father of the Americans with Disabilities Act.