There was only one thing wrong with my relationship with Justin Dart; it was too short. Justin and his wife Yoshiko were at the White House in 1999 when I received the President's Award from President Clinton. This award was presented to me for my work in the area of furthering employment for Americans with disabilities. I briefly met Justin and Yoshiko that great day. If I had known them better and celebrated with them, it would have made that day even more memorable.
Justin, a man forever transformed by polio, would go on to become one of the greatest advocates in the disability rights movement! He is known as the General behind the Americans with Disabilities Act and an on-going warrior for all of us living with disabilities. He led us, he inspired us, and he empowered us! He taught us to stand up, and in his most famous words, "Lead On!" He truly believed in all of us, loved all of us, and taught us to preach the "revolution of empowerment”.
I really did not have a direct conversation with Justin until 2000 and I got to know him better in the following year. Sadly, he passed away in 2002. He left the spirit of unity, humility, love and empowerment. He left us the greatest way to continue knowing him, his wife, Yoshiko. I have developed a friendship with Yoshiko that I treasure. I wanted to write about Yoshiko, because she was, and is, the love of Justin's life and a partner in his crusade for quality of life for Americans with disabilities. She is still a crusader today.
Justin was a civil rights warrior. He fought tirelessly for us…as did Yoshiko. She and Justin traveled the United States not once, but to every state in this country, multiple times, including Puerto Rico and Guam. They did this together and met with people with disabilities. They did this to help bring passion to the fight for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Yoshiko Dart is the force behind Justin's fight for freedom, as he himself stated. She is one of the most humble people I know. She is all about empowerment for people with disabilities and a tremendous
mentor to young people with disabilities. She spends so much of her personal time advocating for the rights of people with disabilities every day.
Yoshiko has successfully kept Justin with us. One of the greatest compliments she ever shared with me is when she told me Justin would be so proud of me because of my crusade for employment for Americans with disabilities.
Yoshiko’s life is part of the history of the disability rights movement. She is, and always will be, one of the most encouraging and enthusiastic people I know, when it comes to our civil rights.
I have a very powerful woman as my role model; her name is Yoshiko Dart.
Please use the contact form on the www.benderconsult.com website and send to me your favorite stories about Yoshiko’s passion, enthusiasm, and support of you and the disability community.