We honor here members, friends and supporters of the American Council of the Blind who have impacted our lives in many wonderful ways. If you would like to submit a notice for this column, please include as much of the following information as possible.
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Deaths that occurred more than six months ago cannot be reported in this column.
Mary Jane Owen
June 8, 1929 - July 14, 2019
Reprinted from “The Washington Post,” Aug. 24, 2019.
Mary Jane McKeown Owen, long-time peace activist and advocate for disabled rights, died at 90 on July 14, 2019, at her home in Washington.
Born in Illinois to parents who were both Methodist-Episcopal ministers and raised in a family with feminist values, Owen developed a life-long resume of political and personal accomplishment that began as a young woman. Even before her graduate studies at University of California-Berkeley, she was active in support of the Congress of Racial Equality, the Free Speech Movement, the efforts to build People’s Park, and to end the war in Vietnam.
During her tenure as a faculty member in the sociology department at Berkeley, she lost her sight, and consequently marshaled her energies into work for universal accessibility and dignity for disabled Americans, first in California and ultimately in Washington, D.C., where she worked with others to advance Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and testified before Congress in support of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Although she regained partial sight during the 1990s, Mary Jane began using a wheelchair, which became a source of freedom for her spirit to travel the neighborhood. She remained a passionate and undaunted worker for progressive causes, her Adams Morgan community, the Dupont Circle Village, open to diverse religious beliefs including Islam, and as a mentor to many, believing in the good of her neighbors and friends.
In the ‘90s, she was the executive director of the National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities. She was also a contributor to “The Braille Forum,” writing such pieces as “Is There a Cost to Civil Rights? Some Essential Nonsense about Dollars and Sense” (July 1992), “Accessibility, A Compilation: I’ll Fake It ‘Til We Make It, But How Long Will It Take?” (May 1993), “Health Reform: What’s Not to Like?” (May 1994), “Still Faking It?” (August 1994), “We Have to Keep On Keeping On” (May 1995), and “When Does the Deception End?” (December 1995), among others. “I’ll Fake It ‘Til We Make It” won her the Ned E. Freeman Excellence in Writing Award in 1994.
She was predeceased by her daughter, India, and is survived by a cousin, Paulina Stout, of Massachusetts.