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Richard Devylder, Longtime Disability Rights Activist, Dies at 46

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Disability rights activist Richard Devylder passed away on August 8 from natural causes, The Los Angeles Times reported. He was 46.

Devylder was born without arms or legs, and after his birth, Joan Devylder became his foster mother. “Every baby deserves to live,” Devylder told The LA Times. “But I never dreamed of what he would become.”

Her son went on to spend the majority of his life trying to improve transportation services for people with disabilities, according to The Dailty 49er, the paper of California State University, Long Beach, where Richard Devylder graduated from in 1992. In 2010, President Obama appointed Devylder as the U.S. Department of Transportation’s first Senior Advisor for Accessible Transportation. In his position, Devylder pushed for transportation and emergency preparedness reform for people with disabilities, emphasizing that people with disabilities couldn’t rely on other people to save them in an emergency. Additionally, he helped develop policy strategies to ensure all modes of transportation met the access and functional needs of people with all abilitiesHe retired this year.

Devlyder enjoyed swimming and attending Los Angeles Lakers basketball games. Part-owner and president of the Lakers, Jeanie Buss, tweeted her condolences.

Throughout his life, Devylder used technology and creative mechanisms to live independently. He used his shoulder to operate his electric wheelchair, and he could get ready in the morning with the help of simple tricks, like having his razor positioned in a small wood box so he could shave by himself. “Think big in order to achieve and go places where you want to go,” Devylder told The Daily 49er.

You can watch an 11-minute video exemplifying Devylder’s independence below.

Originally published: August 17, 2015
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