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Lucy Spruill Lucy Spruill (Sept. 29, 1944 – June 16, 2015). Spruill, a longtime social justice advocate and the force behind Pittsburgh's public transportation system becoming the first major bus provider in the nation to become ADA compliant, died at age 70. No cause of death was given.

In 1990, after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, many cities struggled with complying with the law’s new transit requirements. In Pittsburgh, the Port Authority of Allegheny County publicly considered the idea of cutting back services for disabled riders to the minimum required by the law to help pay for the cost of making its bus fleet accessible.

Spruill was not going to stand for it. She voiced her indignation in a phone call to the executive director of the Port Authority – at his home on Christmas Eve.

“Port Authority said, ‘OK, let’s try a cooperative approach,” said Paul O'Hanlon, a disability rights activist. After that, the greater Pittsburgh public transportation system adopted the ADA requirements in its fleet. Spruill, said O’Hanlon, “was instrumental in getting the very first paratransit system up and running here.”

“It was like the version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ here in Pittsburgh,” said Jeffry Parker, a longtime friend of Spruill’s. “They were able to keep access at the high level of transportation, and it’s never gone backward.”

In 1994, Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy hired Pruill as the city’s first ADA coordinator, a job at which she was known as a tough advocate and negotiator.

In 1998, while working for United Cerebral Palsy-Community Living and Support Services, she set up the “attendant care” program that provides in-home, individualized services to people with disabilities. According to Parker, formerly Spruill’s assistant at CLASS, the program started with 120 people and grew to more than 1,000.

“She totally turned the whole system on its ear,” said Parker. Spruill, who also was the program director, was not a fan of the one-size-fits-all approach, he said, and instead wanted to “find out exactly what the person needs and how they need it.”

Lucy Spruill testing out an accessible taxi/Google ImagesSpruill was a founding member of the Port Authority’s Committee for Accessible Transportation and was among the first to serve on the city-county task force on disabilities. She also served on the city's planning commission. She was an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and a lecturer on issues related to disability studies.

Spruill was born in Washington, D.C., to Leonard and Theresa Correnti, the couple’s only girl among five children. Born with spina bifida, she was considered too fragile to attend school and was educated primarily by her mother at home after the family moved to southwestern Pennsylvania.

She didn’t obtain formal schooling until her junior year in high school, did well academically, and had planned to attend Albright College in Reading, Pa. But when she got there, she was told that the college couldn’t accommodate a student in a wheelchair, and she was turned away. I

nstead, she enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology and a master’s degree in social work. According to her daughter, Jennifer Spruill, her passion for activism and social justice began in the 1960s with the civil rights movement. It later extended to the women’s movement and the peace movement.

She spent most of her life in a wheelchair, which created “a lived experience for her about the discrimination and sometimes devaluation that sometimes happens with people with disabilities,” said Al Condeluci, CEO of CLASS. “I think that was the corpus of (her) passion.”

“It was part of her success story -- overcoming these barriers for herself and other members of the community,” said Spruill’s son Jim. “Really, her first political activism was in the civil rights movement.”

Survivors, in addition to her son Jim of Pennsylvania and her daughter Jennifer of Chicago, include her brothers, Frank Correnti and Leonard Correnti of Pennsylvania, Samuel Correnti of New York City, and Lawrence Correnti of Augusta, Ga.; and six grandchildren.


David Gray/Google ImagesDavid Gray (Feb. 7, 1944 -- Feb. 12, 2015). Gray, a scientist who relentlessly championed the right of people with disabilities to live independent, satisfying lives, and a major advocate of the Americans with Disabilities Act, died of an apparent heart attack at St. Mary’s Health Center in St. Louis after collapsing at his home in University City. He was 71.

Gray ardently pursued personalized interventions to help disabled individuals fully participate in their everyday lives. He developed methods to measure community participation progress for people with disabil- i - ties and he studied and proved how the environment can affect those results. His work in that field became internationally recognized.

Gray led the effort to establish a structured exercise facility for people with impaired mobility and inspired many students to become innovative and compassionate health care professionals.

He helped establish the Enabling Mobility Center, now called the Health and Wellness Program, at Paraquad, a center for independent living in St. Louis founded by Max and Colleen Starkloff. At the center, people with mobility impairments and limitations are evaluated for the fit of their current assistive devices, tested for their skill in using their devices, exposed to alternative devices and trained in the use of their current or new devices.

In 1986, Gray was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to head the National Institute on Handicap Research.

“The first thing I did was rename it the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

He later co-chaired a group that worked with the World Health Organization to drop the term “handicapped.” It’s a word that’s rarely used today.

He was invited to the White House in 1990 for the signing of the ADA into law by President George H.W. Bush.

In the 1990s, he was deputy director of the National Institutes of Health, the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

In 1995, Gray, a professor of neurology and occupational therapy, was hired at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis to teach courses on social issues and disability and to return to research. He joined a team that determined that paraplegics, through exercise, could regain some movement they thought permanently lost.

In an interview with the St. Louis Business Journal in 2006, Gray told the paper, “We've built the best exercise facility in the country, if not the world, for people with mobility issues.”

He identified unemployment, not exercise, as the number one health problem facing people with disabilities. “If employers see success stories like these,” he once was quoted as saying, “maybe they won’t be so afraid” of hiring people with disabilities.

“Dr. Gray built a team of professionals and sent accomplished students into the field who will continue to have an impact on communities throughout the world,” said Carla Walker, an occupational therapist. “His legacy is true change and opportunity for meaningful participation of persons with disabilities.”

Gray’s life was permanently altered in 1976 after he fell and broke his neck while standing on the top section of a ladder not designed to support his weight. The fall left him a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down, and he spent a year in the hospital.

Gray was the second of four children born in Grand Rapids, Mich., to Fred Gray, an obstetrician, and Marian Bertsch Gray, a medical social worker.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Lawrence University in 1962, a master’s degree in experimental psychology from Western Michigan University in 1970 and a doctorate in psychology and genetics from the University of Minnesota in 1974.

Survivors include his wife of 47 years, Margaret “Margy” Gray; a son, David W. Gray of Seattle, Wash.; two daughters, Elizabeth Gray of Woodlawn, Calif., and Polly Payne of Livingston, Mont.; a sister, Priscilla Laula of Charlotte, N.C.; two brothers, Fred Gray of Mackinaw, Mich., and William Gray of Alanson, Mich.; and two grandchildren.

-- Compiled from various sources



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