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Remembering A ‘Giant’: More On Friday’s StoryCorps About Max Starkloff

(Courtesy: Missouri History Museum)

Today’s edition of StoryCorps, which aired during “Morning Edition,” was a remembrance of Max Starkloff, a pioneer in the disability rights movement who was quadriplegic. He died in 2010.

The StoryCorps conversation featured Starkloff’s wife, Colleen Starkloff, and their daughter, Meaghan Starkloff Breitenstein.

“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, co-director of the Starkloff Disability Institute.

“When I met Max, I realized it was the beginning of life,” she told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh. Colleen Starkloff and author Charles Claggett Jr. were Marsh’s guests last month to talk about a new book, “Max Starkloff and the Fight for Disability Rights.”

Richard H. Weiss helped write the book and wrote a reflection of Starkloff’s life. Here’s an excerpt of that reflection:

It shocks me that many of my acquaintances, pretty well read and connected to the community, had not heard of Max. For some others the name rings familiar. They remember that a car accident left him quadriplegic and that he was a do-gooder of some sort.
For them I give my elevator speech. Disabled or not, you cannot make your way down a city or suburban sidewalk without appreciating Max. You cannot ride a bus without doing the same. Max Starkloff’s work, along with that of many others, gave us curb cuts and wheel chair 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.
Today we pretty much take all that for granted. But flashback to the 1970s. Accessibility was hardly on the public agenda. And when Max endeavored to put it there, he got an incredible amount of pushback from otherwise compassionate people who said lifts, curb cuts and retrofits to buildings would be way too expensive and get so little use.
So that’s where I start, because sidewalks, buses and changes to buildings are part of our everyday living, easy to notice and appreciate.

Weiss’ entire reflection was published in Nov. 2014.

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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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.