- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Alan A. Reich, founder of the National Organization on Disability, died Nov. 8 at his McLean home after a long illness. He was 75.

Born in Pearl River, N.Y., Mr. Reich graduated in 1952 from Dartmouth College, where he was an All-American in track and field. From 1953 to 1957, he served as an Army infantry officer and Russian language-interrogation officer in Germany and was named a member of the Army Infantry Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame for his services.

After a swimming accident in 1962 left him a quadriplegic, Mr. Reich continued as an executive with the Polaroid Corp., where he worked for 11 years. In 1970, he joined the federal government as deputy assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs and later as deputy assistant secretary of commerce for east-west trade and director of the Bureau of East-West Trade.

During these years, Mr. Reich served the disability movement as a volunteer, working to further research in regeneration of the central nervous system. He founded the Paralysis Cure Research Foundation, was president of the National Paraplegia Foundation and founded the National Task Force on Disability.

In 1981, Mr. Reich founded the U.S. Council for the International Year of the Disabled and became the first wheelchair user to address the United Nations’ General Assembly when he called for 1981 to be declared the U.N. International Year of Disabled Persons.

When he was 52, Mr. Reich resigned from the government to assume full-time leadership of the council and transformed it into the National Organization on Disability (NOD) in 1982.

Mr. Reich used the NOD as a platform to advocate for the Americans with Disabilities Act . He also built a coalition of disability groups that successfully fought for the inclusion of a statue of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his wheelchair at the FDR Memorial.

Mr. Reich retired from leading the organization in April. In July, President Bush presented him with the George Bush Medal for his work on behalf of people with disabilities. The AARP has planned to recognize him as one of its 10 People of the Year in December.

Mr. Reich is survived by his wife of 50 years, Gay Forsythe Reich of McLean; two sons, James of Marshfield Hills, Mass., and Jeffrey of Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.; a daughter, Elizabeth Keane of Arlington; a brother, Peter Reich of Pasadena, Calif.; and 11 grandchildren.

Memorial services will be held 11 a.m. Dec. 13, at Foundry United Methodist Church, 1500 16th St. NW. Memorial contributions can be made to the National Organization on Disability, 910 16th St. NW, Washington D.C. 20006.

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