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Book Details Max Starkloff’s Life, Fight For Disability Rights

Max Starkloff
Courtesy of the Missouri History Museum

In 1959, at age 21, Max Starkloff broke his neck in a car accident, becoming a quadriplegic.

“I think most people see disability as the worst thing that could ever happen to you and that it’s the end of your life,” said Colleen Starkloff, his widow and co-director of the Starkloff Disability Institute. “When I met Max, I realized it was the beginning of life.”

Max Starkloff, who died in 2010, became an advocate for people with disabilities.

Max Starkloff is the subject of a biography by Charles E. Claggett Jr. with Richard H. Weiss. In a reflection for St. Louis Public Radio, Weiss wrote that Starkloff “gave us curb cuts and wheelchair lifts on buses. He was a leader who helped make just about every new building and many of the old across America accessible to everyone.”

“We actually helped to shape the disability rights movement,” Colleen Starkloff told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Monday. “Back then, we talked about housing, transportation, health care, education and unemployment. Forty years ago, we were fighting for employment for people with disabilities. Today, that’s our big issue. I think when we get employment dealt with properly, we will have finally come to where we wanted to be in the beginning.

“While we were fighting for everything from the beginning, it ended up that we had to have sort of a process to get to where we need to go. When I see that everybody with a disability can go into a place, have an interview, not feel like they can’t do the job because they are disabled, I’ll feel like a great part of Max’s dream will have been realized.”

The disability rights movement took cues from the civil rights movement, Claggett said. That has included protests and demonstrations.

“I think what’s happening with the Ferguson issue, the peaceful demonstrations, I think, can begin to raise public attention,” Colleen Starkloff said. “What we’ve done in the disability rights movement, we’ve done plenty of demonstrations in our movement. Never violent. Always trying to get people to say ‘I wonder what those guys are up to,’ to try to care (and) listen to us.”

Related Events

Charles Claggett discussion and signing

  • When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014
  • Where: Missouri History Museum's Lee Auditorium
  • More information: Call (314) 746-4599 or visit the Missouri History Museum website

St. Louis County Library presents Charles Claggett discussion and signing

  • When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014
  • Where: St. Louis County Library Headquarters, 1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd.
  • More information: Call (314) 994-3300 or visit the St. Louis County Library Headquarters website

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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