DRAC first organized around the issue of accessible transportation. In the 1990s, DRAC worked to persuade local transit authorities to provide lifts on buses. Transit officials were initially so opposed to this idea that they locked the lifts included on new buses so that riders with disabilities couldn’t access them. With the help of ADAPT, a national grassroots disability group, we were able to help change the hearts and minds of UTA officials by having people with mobility impairments crawl on to busses at every stop, thereby disrupting their schedules and demonstrating the need for accessible public transportation.
Barbara Toomer was a leading disability rights activist in Utah for more than 40 years and helped to organize the Disabled Rights Action Committee in 1991. She co-founded the Utah Independent Living Center in 1981 and became involved in ADAPT in 1983. In Utah, she organized “crawl ons” demanding that the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) make its services accessible to individuals with disabilities. The protests shut down every bus route in Salt Lake City when protesters chained themselves to the buses. She was jailed at least 35 times due to her activism, but never backed down.
In her work with the Disabled Rights Action Committee, Barbara fought the UTA over steep fare hikes for paratransit, lobbied for Medicaid expansion, and served as a plaintiff against local ab companies for lack of ADA compliance. She participated in the rallies and protests in Washington D.C. that led to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and was active in the disability rights movement until her death in 2018.
Barbara’s awards include the National Organization for Women’s Woman of Courageous Action Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000, the Utah Issues’ Joe Duke Rosati Hell Raiser Award in 2005, the Advocate of the Year Community Justice Award from the Disability Law Center, the Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major Award in 2008, the AARP Outstanding Volunteer in 2014, the Crossroads Urban Center Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015, and the Rosa Parks Award from the Salt Lake Branch of the NAACP in 2017.
You can read more about Barbara’s legacy at the links below: