Fred Fay: A Life Worth Living
September 12, 1944 - August 20, 2011

Yellow Pages for Kids    l   Blog   l    Law   l    Advocacy    l  Training   l     Store    l  Subscribe   l    Sitemap   l   Contact Us

December 3, 2010

ISSN: 1538-3202

Subscribers: 84,593

Co-founded with his mother "Opening Doors," a counseling and information center.

Together they established the Washington Architectural Barriers Project which led the way to make the DC subway system accessible to all.

Received his doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Illinois.

Principal founder of the Boston Center for Independent Living. Senior research associate for Comprehensive Needs Survey, studies that demonstrated the need for independent living initiatives nationwide.

Organized the first meeting of the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities which led to the founding of state grassroots cross-disability organizations nationwide.

Director of Research and Training, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Tufts University-New England Medical Center.

Established the Justice For All Forum for enhancing grassroots advocacy, which has grown to become the highly-relied upon source of national disability news and action alerts. In 2001 AAPD formally became the host for JFAA.

Received the Henry B. Betts Award for outstanding achievement in civil rights for Americans with disabilities

Received the American Association of People with Disabilities Justice for All Award.

Contact Info

Pete and Pam Wright
Wrightslaw & The Special Ed Advocate
P. O. Box 1008
Deltaville, VA 23043

Copyright © 2009, 2010 All rights reserved. Please do NOT reprint or host on your web site without explicit permission.

Fred FayUpdate to 12/3/2010 newsletter - Fred Fay passed away on Saturday, August 20, 2011. A Life Worth Living, a film about Fred's life and his role in the Disability Rights Movement, is scheduled to air on PBS on October 27. Film Synop l Trailer More info to follow soon.

See also the obituary page at the Concord (MA) Funeral Home at www.concordfuneral.com.

Gifts in Fred's name may be made to the Boston Center for Independent Living, 60 Temple Place, Boston, MA 02111. URL is www.bostoncil.org.

Celebrating the Life of Fred Fay (September 12 1944 - August 20, 2011)

When my cousin Fred was 17, he launched his disability advocacy career. Today Fred is widely recognized as one of the most significant leaders in the disability rights and independent living movements in the nation.

As you read this story and follow the links, you can hear Fred tell his story.

As a teenager, Fred was an accomplished gymnast. At age 16, he fell from a trapeze and landed on his head, suffering a severe spinal cord injury. Despite his injuries, Fred was determined to live a full life. He wanted to show that a person with quadriplegia could be active, own an apartment, drive a car, get married, have children, and earn a Ph.D. In the video links below, you'll see and hear Fred tell his story.

Fred accomplished his dreams, while also working to secure unprecedented access to civil rights for Americans with disabilities.

As a disability policy adviser to the Administration and Congress, Fred was instrumental in winning passage of Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, the ADA of 1990, and the IDEA of 1997.

When President Johnson invited Fred to the Rose Garden for the signing of the the Urban Mass Transportation Act 1964, his wheelchair had to be bumped up the steps - the White House was not accessible.

"Lobbying to get access for the disabled became his life's work, achieving it has become his life's triumph."

At home in Washington, DC, Fred found "every single curb was like a Berlin Wall telling me that I was not welcome to travel farther than a block." When Fred read about the new DC subway system to be built he thought "Why don't they build it so that everybody can ride it?..."

Fred Fay with Elmer Bartels, Alison GilkeyFred's life proves that one man can change the world, even though he has to lie flat on his back just to stay alive.

videoLives Worth Living - In this trailer, Fred as he tells you about his life after a devastating spinal cord injury, and his alliance with a small group of dedicated activists who formed the Disability Rights Movement and helped drive the nation towards equal rights.

An Incomparable Tinkerer

Fred "assumes no barriers in how innovative he can be in designing the technology in his environment." - Judy Brewer, Director of the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium.

Fred was a pioneer in the development of assistive technology and has been instrumental in the development of adaptive computer technology. For millions of people with disabilities, Fred's innovations have provided access to the world around them.

UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library has recorded the stories of individuals who have made significant contributions to disability rights and the independent living movement. Read more about Fred here...

Fred Fay: Community Organizer and Advocate for Equal Access and Equal Rights

(The following paragraphs were added on 8/20/2011.) If you would like to send Fred's family a note of thanks, please send an email to:

thankyou.fred | at | wrightslaw.com

(please remove the | at | and insert the @ sign)
and we will make sure the family receives your message.

After we published the original newsletter on December 3, 2010, Fred and his family received hundreds of emails from our Wrighslaw friends. His partner Trish Irons printed each email and read them to him.

Pam and I visited Fred less than two weeks ago. He talked about how meaningful these emails were to him. He said one email was from a church in Indiana where more than 1,800 parishoners were praying for his recovery. Your emails had a profound, positive effect on Fred. He had a dramatic recovery in December that continued until his decline a few days ago.

Today, we see his smile.

Viewers might enjoy another video of Fred on our website at:


Many thanks.

Back to top


Visit Wrightslaw.com