LifeLong Closely Tied to Disability Rights Movement

Every year on December 3 the world observes International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It’s a day proclaimed in 1992 by the United Nations to “promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights, and well-being of persons with disabilities.”

Even before its formal founding, the organization that would become LifeLong Medical Care was inextricably linked to the disability rights movement, according to longtime LifeLong Board of Directors member Patricia Carson Sussman.

“Over 60 and the whole disability movement happened at the same time. In a way, they grew up together,” Carson Sussman said.

Over 60 Health Center was the first health center of what is present-day LifeLong. Carson Sussman was an original Over 60 board member, as was Judy Turiel, who is also on the LifeLong board today.

Disability rights activist Judy Heumann

The Over 60 board was chaired by Judy Huemann, who has been described as “the mother of disability rights.” Heumann, who contracted polio at age 5, went on to serve in both the Clinton and Obama administrations. Carson Sussman noted that many advances for disabled people were created in Berkeley by people associated with LifeLong.

“From the beginning,” Carson Sussman said, “LifeLong has been aware of and knowledgeable about disability rights.”

 Today that strong awareness continues. LifeLong’s Care at Home program serves seniors who aren’t able to leave home for care because of either physical or behavioral health disabilities. LifeLong has also worked closely with the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) to best determine how to ask patients about their accessibility needs so they can be better served when they seek health care.