Westchester resident Anna Fay passed away Friday after a brief illness. Ms. Fay, who contracted polio in 1944 at the age of six, was a renowned leader in the New York disability rights movement beginning in the 1970s and up until her death. She was also a role model and mentor to four generations of people with disabilities who sought to live independently, outside of institutions.
Ms. Fay worked with the Queens-based advocacy group the Architectural Barriers Committee in the early 1970s and helped lead a watershed demonstration in 1973 where New Yorkers with disabilities successfully demanded that New York State add them to the list of those exempted from a ban on motor vehicles in the city when gas was being rationed because of the OPEC oil embargo. Their success emboldened the disability community to push for greater access to all kinds of public accommodations.
Ms. Fay took part in a national sit-in campaign in 1977 to force the federal government to keep its promise to end discrimination based on disability from entities receiving federal money. She joined a small group of demonstrators who occupied the New York City office of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) for 48 hours while a larger group demonstrated outside. These demonstrations led US led HEW Secretary Joseph Califano to move ahead on Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act, which would provide the legal framework and much of the language for the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Ms. Fay also played an important role in the founding of important New York institutions. She led the formation of the New York City chapter of the National Paraplegia Foundation and served as its first president. Believing the community needed a more full-time agency to help people with disabilities achieve independence, Ms. Fay helped secure the grant that transformed the chapter into the state’s first independent living center, CIDNY.
She was present at the creation of and served as a New York delegate on the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD), a national cross-disability organization that helped write Section 504 among other major accomplishments on behalf of people with disabilities. Ms. Fay’s advocacy continued throughout her life. She is survived by sister Ellen Musantry, brother in law Ted Musantry and their children Alan, John, Anna, and Thea Musantry and great niece and nephews Derrick and Cali Musantry and Mekhi and Isaiah Walker.
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