A Disability Rights Hero Lost


Portrait-style photo of Larry Paradis. He is smiling in a collared shirt and tie.

August 1, 2016—Berkeley, CA—Disability Rights Advocate’s (DRA) Co-Founder and Executive Director, Larry Paradis, passed away last week.  DRA’s Co-Founder and Supervising Attorney Sid Wolinsky will continue with Director of Litigation Mary-Lee Smith to direct the work of the nonprofit legal center, started in 1993 to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide.

Linda Dardarian, Chair of DRA’s Board of Directors, said of Larry: “It has been my honor and privilege to have Larry as a friend, colleague, and mentor.  Larry was an amazingly talented, brilliant, and accomplished disability rights trailblazer, and a deeply good, caring, decent, and giving person.  Larry broke down barriers all across this nation.  If you use a wheelchair or scooter and can freely travel because the corners have curb ramps, Larry did that.  If you are blind and can access websites to shop or read books, Larry did that.  If you are deaf and can watch captioned movies at your local theater, Larry did that.  If you have a disability and can enter your polling place and use the voting machine privately, Larry did that.  Larry spent his life working tirelessly so that people with disabilities would be fully included in all aspects of American life.  That is his legacy, and he will be loved and admired forever for it.”

Larry became disabled as a young adult while attending Harvard Law School. He devoted his life to protecting the civil rights of people with disabilities.

As the Executive Director of DRA, Larry never stopped litigating cases.  Larry took on and won hundreds of high impact, precedent-setting cases—achieving dramatic improvements for people with disabilities seeking access to health care, employment, transportation, education, disaster preparedness planning, voting and housing.

Larry’s legal work was of the highest order—through three decades of work, he almost never lost a case.  He was named by California Lawyer magazine one of California’s Attorneys of the Year (CLAY) in 2011 and 2003.  In 2004, Larry was voted Trial Lawyer of the Year by the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association.  He was a member of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and served on the boards of many advocacy organizations including the Berkeley Center for Independent Living, Disability Rights Bar Association, National Council on Disability: International Watch Committee, American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, Berkeley Commission on Disability, Disability Statistics Center at UCSF, and the UCSF Center for Personal Assistance Services.

Sid Wolinsky said: “I’ve lost a dear friend, comrade and brother.  Larry touched the lives of millions of people and made the world a better place.  The work which Larry so brilliantly and tirelessly executed is not finished.  DRA will continue to honor his legacy by pursuing the goal about which he was most passionate—advancing the rights of men, women and children with disabilities.”

Larry will be remembered as a hero for the disability community, a skilled and dedicated lawyer, and a devoted father and husband.  Larry is survived by his wife and two sons.

More information about a celebration of Larry’s life and a legacy fund to be established in Larry’s honor can be found here: https://dralegal.org/larry-paradis-legacy/


Disability Rights Advocates, (510) 665-8644, info@dralegal.org