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Marilyn Golden (1954–2021), disability rights activist

by Linnea Crowther

Marilyn Golden was a disability activist who fought for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).


Golden became paralyzed below her mid-back after a fall while she was in college in 1976. After experiencing the challenges of navigating the world in a wheelchair, she began fighting for better access to transportation and public buildings for people with disabilities. Golden began working with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) in the 1980s, becoming a senior policy analyst. There, she worked to improve accessibility for all, specializing in explaining accessibility challenges to the non-disabled. This skill helped make the passage of the ADA possible, as she made it clear how important the legislation was. President Bill Clinton appointed Golden to the U.S. Access Board, which works to promote equality for disabled people. She was named a Champion of Change for her work to improve transportation accessibility.

Notable quote

“Before the ADA, outside California and a smattering of cities elsewhere, city buses were simply not accessible to wheelchair users. Now they are, across the country. There were no announcements of bus stops, which particularly aid blind people, nor was there bus-stop signage giving the upcoming stops, which particularly aids deaf and hard-of-hearing people.” —from a 2021 interview for Jewish Currents


Tributes to Marilyn Golden

Full obituary: The Washington Post

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