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Disabled rights activist dies, but legacy remains

By Shane Nelson

Jan. 8, 2003 9:00 p.m.

Douglas Martin, a successful advocate for disabled people who
helped pass the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with
Disabilities Act of 1988, died Friday. He was 55.

Friends and coworkers said Martin left an indelible mark on the
campus where he spent a majority of his life professionally and
personally.

“Doug was a true activist and leader in the disability
community. All individuals with disability, especially those at
UCLA, are in his debt. The community has definitely suffered a
loss,” said Dria Fearn, president of the Disabled Students
Union.

Martin was a wheelchair-user who contracted polio at the age of
5. A Nebraska native, he initially planned to enroll at the
University of Nebraska. However, university officials denied him
admission after he failed the required physical examination. This
experience left a lasting impression on the young man who decided
to pursue an education at UCLA and dedicate his life to improving
the rights of people with disabilities.

As a student, Martin was the first person with a significant
disability to be named a Chancellor’s Fellow in 1971 and a
UCLA Chancellor’s Teaching Assistant in 1972. A few years
after earning his doctoral degree in urban planning in 1975, he
co-founded the UCLA Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on
Disability in 1983.

In 1989 Martin took the reins of the office that makes sure the
university is fully compliant with the federal and state laws.

During his 13-year post as ADA/Section 504 Compliance Officer he
worked to make the university accessible to all persons, adding
access ramps and handrails around the stair-strewn campus and
improved accommodations for students with learning
disabilities.

“Doug followed his mandate to carry out the letter of the
law, but he had the ability to help people see the spirit of the
law and create access. It was not only physical access, but also
ideological, policy, personal and social access,” said CACD
chairwoman Jayne Spencer.

He could identify a legal problem and change it for
everyone’s benefit, Spencer said.

Now a history and Latin American studies lecturer, when Spencer
was a graduate student she learned she wouldn’t be able to
receive her disability benefits for more than 30 days while
studying abroad in Venezuela. In a wheelchair herself, the law
proved to be a massive obstacle, she said. Martin worked with her
to change the law so that she ““ and all disabled
students ““ could receive their benefits while studying
abroad, she said.

“He had insight. So positive, so productive,”
Spencer added.

Martin died in his sleep shortly after his respirator
malfunctioned, said his wife, RaeLynne Rein, in an e-mail to
friends and colleagues.

Martin is survived by Rein and his mother, Julia. His father,
Arthur, died Oct. 8, 2002. The family said a dual memorial service
will be planned for father and son.

His family and colleagues also plan to establish a scholarship
for students with disabilities in his honor.

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