Alan Reich, Disability Rights Leader, Dies At Age 75
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 14, 2005
McLEAN, VIRGINIA--Alan A. Reich, a leader in the disability rights movement for several decades, died at his home on November 8 from congestive heart failure.
Reich, 75, will perhaps be best remembered as the founder of the National Organization on Disability, which he founded in 1982 and acted as its president until this past spring.
Reich used a wheelchair after injuring his spine in a 1962 diving accident, according to the NOD's website.
In 1970 Reich joined the federal government as deputy assistant for educational and cultural affairs in the U.S. Department of State. He went on to work in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and was appointed president of the U.S. Council for the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981. In that capacity, he became the first person in a wheelchair to address the United Nations General Assembly.
Reich then left the federal government to start the National Organization on Disability; the Paralysis Cure Research Foundation; the National Paraplegia Foundation, which later became the National Spinal Cord Injury Association; and the National Task Force on Disability; and help found the World Committee's Franklin D. Roosevelt International Disability Award, which recognizes nations for their progress toward the United Nations' program for people with disabilities.
With NOD board members, Reich persuaded Pope John Paul II to sponsor a 1990 world symposium on disabilities at the Vatican.
He also helped bring together a coalition of disability groups that worked to raise funds and push for placing a statue of President Franklin D. Roosevelt -- which portrays him sitting in his a wheelchair -- at the entrance of the F. D. R. Memorial in Washington, DC.
"Alan was the leading visionary who had the overarching view of the disability movement writ large," Michael R. Deland, current chairman and president of the NOD told the Washington Post. "He was at the cutting edge."
Reich is survived by his wife of 50 years, Gay Forsythe Reich, along with three children and 11 grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held on December 13, in Washington. More information is available on the NOD website.
"World Disability Leader Alan A. Reich Dies at Age 75" (National Organization on Disability)
"Alan A. Reich, 75; Advocate for Disabled" (Washington Post)
"A Tribute to Alan Reich" by John M. Williams (NOD)