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
laws 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,
lets 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 OHanlon,
was instrumental in getting the very first paratransit system up and
It was like the version of A
Christmas Carol here in Pittsburgh, said Jeffry Parker, a longtime
friend of Spruills. They were able to keep access at the high level
of transportation, and its never gone backward.
In 1994, Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy hired
Pruill as the citys 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 Spruills 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.
Spruill was a founding member of the Port
Authoritys 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 couples 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
She didnt 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 couldnt accommodate a student in a wheelchair, and she
was turned away. I
nstead, she enrolled at the University of
Pittsburgh, where she earned a bachelors degree in speech pathology and a
masters 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 womens 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 Spruills 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 (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. Marys Health
Center in St. Louis after collapsing at his home in University City. He was
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
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.
Its a word thats 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
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
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 wont be so afraid of hiring people with
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.
Grays 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 bachelors degree in
psychology from Lawrence University in 1962, a masters 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
-- Compiled from various sources