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Honoring Disability Advocate Lois Curtis and the Supreme Court Case That Changed History

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Who is Lois Curtis, and what did she do for people like me? By “people like me,” I mean people with a disability. I am a person with a disability (cerebral palsy), a wheelchair-user, an amputee and I have an intellectual disability.

Who is Lois Curtis and why is she important? She also had a disability, an intellectual one and was diagnosed with a mental illness. She was born in 1969 and was raised in Georgia where she often lived in state hospitals and institutions. Sadly during that time a lot of people like Lois were hidden away in places like these or their families would hide them in their homes like a dark secret never to be seen or heard from.

But because of Lois and her fight to live in her community, people aren’t hidden away anymore; we are seen and we are valued members of our communities and that is thanks to Lois and other disability advocates and the landmark Olmstead decision. It was a historic case allowing individuals with disabilities to live within the community they want to live, independently — and not state hospitals or institutions. It’s because of Lois and many others, that myself and future generations of people with disabilities have much better lives because of her. I think everyone should know who she is because of her work and how she impacted this community as a whole, changing history for the betterment of the disability community

We as a society need to recognize and appreciate these unsung advocates because their work matters and oftentimes we don’t know their names  or what they did for us long after they are gone. They made our world better than it was through their contributions, and we are benefiting from it. The least we can do is learn their names and what they did. If we did this we would be able to more appreciate what we have and who was brave enough to fight for what’s right at a time when no one else wanted to take on the fight alone.

Lois died November 3rd, 2022. She was 55, had pancreatic cancer, and was surrounded by her loved ones in her home in Atlanta, Georgia. I wanted to spotlight this advocate/talented artist because, like many others, I had no idea who this person was and what she did for the disability rights movement and for generations of people with disabilities. Because what her and everyone involved in that landmark case did is incredible and historic, but yet not everyone knows about it. This woman brought about the change that was so desperately needed, so that people like me can decide where we want to live. As a person with a disability, who plans to move out in the near future, it’s because of Lois and others that I can have a say in where I want to live. Because of that I am forever grateful for Lois Curtis and her work.

Getty image by TheNJCDD

Originally published: December 23, 2022
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