`General' Leads Fight for Disabled

By Barnes, Denise | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 26, 2000 | Go to article overview

`General' Leads Fight for Disabled


Barnes, Denise, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Most people know her as Rebecca "Becky" Ogle, but there are those in the fight for disabled Americans who call her the Gen. George S. Patton Jr. of the disabilities movement - she doesn't give up any ground and accepts nothing but victory.

Ms. Ogle's objective is to put more paychecks in the wallets of the disabled. She could tackle other issues that would help brighten the lives of the disabled, but right now she's saying to Congress or anybody else who will listen: Show me the money.

Ms. Ogle was appointed executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities by President Clinton in 1998.

Human rights advocate Justin Dart thinks the president couldn't have picked a better fighter.

"I've probably known Becky 15 years now. We worked together in the 1980s trying to get the ADA [Americans With Disabilities Act] legislation passed. To say she's energetic is a gross understatement. Becky is one of a kind - enormously talented and knowledgeable. I call her the Gen. Patton of our movement. She's very outspoken and plain-spoken," says Mr. Dart, the 1998 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his five decades of advocacy in the United States, Mexico, Japan and other nations.

"She does her type of George Patton advocacy, and she can carry it off. Some people can, and some can't. . . . I've worked very closely with her for the past six to seven years, and she's absolutely magnificent. I don't think she ever stops working - Saturdays, Sundays, early in the mornings, late into the night. It's no surprise to have Becky Ogle call you at 10 p.m. with some mandate," he says.

Ms. Ogle has fought for years for equality on behalf of the disabled on issues such as transportation, medical equipment and education. With the Consortium of Citizens With Disabilities, she lobbied for the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

"Working with other disability groups was the first time I felt I didn't need to be fixed," Ms. Ogle says. "This was the only time the disability community has really come together to work in unison. It was about a shared experience we had all felt - an inability to fully participate in society."

Today, Ms. Ogle and an estimated 48 million disabled individuals celebrate the 10th anniversary of the ADA, which President Bush signed into law at a White House ceremony. The civil rights act prohibits discrimination against the disabled in employment, public accommodations and transportation.

* * *

Ms. Ogle was born in Knoxville, Tenn., with spina bifida, a condition in which the spinal cord is exposed at birth. Spina bifida results from a failure of the spine to close properly during the first month of pregnancy. In severe cases, the spinal cord protrudes through the back. The condition can cause bowel and bladder complications.

"The major restrictions I felt in life focused around the school systems in Knoxville, Tenn.," says Ms. Ogle, 44. "I grew up in the late 1950s, when there wasn't a lot of awareness concerning disabilities.

"I was out a lot due to surgeries. Sometimes my mom home-schooled me. Eventually, it got to a place where it was difficult for schools to know how to deal with me. . . . I lacked a lot of control, and there was lots of peer pressure trying to fit in," she says.

"I was constantly at doctors' offices. …

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