Photo by UPI/Bill Greenblatt

One of Missouri’s leading advocates for the disabled has died in St. Louis. 73-year old Max Starkloff was a paraplegic who founded Paraquad, an organization that helps disabled people live independently.

He once said that if there was a magic pill that would end his paralysis, he would not take it.  AUDIO: 25

Starkloff ws paralyzed, except for some limited movement of his left arm, after a car crash in 1959. He rejected the idea that the disabled should be warehoused out view of non-disabled society during the 12 years he was at a nursing home.  AUDIO: 14 sec

He founded Paraquad. and became a persuasive voice in social and political circles advocating for the civil rights of the disabled. AUDIO: 9 sec

He and his wife founded the Starkloff Institute in 2002, an organization that encourages employers to hire people with disabilities.   But Starkloff said the disabled still have a hard time getting jobs. AUDIO: :29 sec

Starkloff was a leader in efforts ranging from curb cuts so people with wheelchairs could cross streets (St. Louis took that step in 1972 at his urging) to getting wheelchair lifts installed on buses (The BiState transit system in St. Louis was the first transit system in the nation to install them), to making the St. Louis Zoo more accessible to the disabled.  He was a leader in the movement that led to passage of the Americans With Disabilities Law in 1990.

Twenty years later, last June, he helped celebrate the passage with the opening of a special exhibit at the History Museum in St. Louis. AUDIO: 13 sec

But, he once recalled, some people never got the word. AUDIO:  25 sec

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay says the designs and operating practices of Missouri’s public buildings, the Metro transportation system, the zoo, and even the new Busch Stadium were influenced by Starkloff’s advice.

Several comments from Starkloff and his wife, Colleen, are available on YouTube including seven segments of a 1995 motion picture about Starkloff, Paraquad, and the Americans With Disabilities Act