HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUSTIN DART
August 29, 1930 – June 22, 2002
Activist, advocate & Father of the ADA
Last month, we commemorated the birthday of Justin Dart, Father of the ADA.
Justin Whitlock Dart, Jr. (August 29, 1930 – June 22, 2002) was an American activist and advocate for people with disabilities. He helped to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, co-founded the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), and is regarded as the "Father of the ADA."
Born on August 29, 1930, he contracted polio in 1948 and became a wheelchair user. While at the University of Houston in the early 1950s Dart fought for racial integration on campus. He earned a bachelor’s in political science and master’s in history with the goal of teaching. However his teaching certification was denied because he used a wheelchair. Instead, Dart went into business, eventually starting Japan Tupperware in 1963.
As president of Tupperware Japan Dart was interested in more than money; he wanted to create social change. He hired women and people with disabilities to empower them and even helped organize Japan’s first wheelchair basketball team. According to an interview in Mouth Magazine Tupperware executives in the U.S. told Dart to stop promoting women to executive positions and to stop his disability campaign. In response Justin and his wife, Yoshiko, resigned.
Back in Texas, Dart was appointed to the Texas Governor’s Committee for Persons with Disabilities Texas, eventually serving as chair. President Reagan selected Dart to be the vice-chair of the National Council on Disability in 1981. About this time He purchased his signature beige cowboy hat which he wore as he and Yoshiko undertook a fact finding tour, visiting every state to collect first hand stories of injustices and barriers faced by disabled people to support emerging civil rights legislation to outlaw such discrimination that is now known as the Americans With Disabilities Act.