Disability advocate Lois Curtis dies

Lois Curtis. Photo provided to Tucker Observer

Clarkston, GA — Disability advocate, artist and Clarkston resident Lois Curtis died on Nov. 3.

The cause of death was pancreatic cancer, according to the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities

“Curtis is one of two plaintiffs (Elaine Wilson was the other plaintiff) behind the 1999 Olmstead vs. L.C. Decision, often thought of as one of the most important civil rights decisions in United States history for people with disabilities,” the announcement from GCDD says. “Lois paved the way for people with mental, developmental, and intellectual disabilities to leave institutional settings and live in their communities.”

Here’s more information about Curtis and the funeral arrangements from the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities:

Curtis, who had developmental disabilities and schizophrenia, lived in institutions and hospitals for many years. She fought for the freedom to live independently. When she was a young woman, she reached out to an attorney at Atlanta Legal Aid repeatedly to have her voice heard. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court where the Olmstead decision was delivered by Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1999 that resulted in and initiated policy change. Lee Sanders, whose known Curtis since 2005, is Career Specialist at Briggs and Associates who also worked with her.

“The art of Lois Curtis is that she was larger than life. She was joyous, she had a big personality, and she loved people,” said Sanders. “People often say that the Olmstead decision is the Brown vs Board of Education for the disability community because it opened doors for people to live in their communities, to have freedom, and to work. Advocacy was her life. She was amazing.”

Lois Curtis was an artist and disability advocate whose landmark case brought to the forefront that people with disability had the right to live in the community. Not to be segregated away in institutions,” said advocate supporter Teresa Heard. “If it was not for her, institutionalization would be deemed the only alternative for many families. She changed the landscape and brought forth innovation for people with disabilities.”

“Lois is like the godmother of the disability rights movement in Georgia. She stood up to the system of institutionalization of people labeled with intellectual and developmental disabilities and did not back down,” said Danny Hoover, Behavioral Specialist, and supporter of Curtis. “She became the beacon of hope for so many people that historically had little or no voice in their service location. Since she made this stand, the advocacy movement has made many more changes to the way people with disabilities receive supports in communities. People are speaking up at our state capitol, local government agencies, families, and to their individual providers. The advocacy movement continues to grow and improve because Lois showed us that people have the power to make change no matter their circumstances.”

Curtis who was 55, died of pancreatic cancer. She was known nationally and throughout Georgia for her work. She lived in Clarkston, Georgia. Her funeral will be held at the Donald Trimble Funeral Home located at 1876 2nd Avenue, Decatur, Georgia 30032 Saturday November 12, 2022, at 12 noon. There will be a viewing Friday, November 11th from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Donald Trimble Funeral Home. Curtis will be laid to rest at the Southview civil rights cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia. Her funeral will be livestreamed. For more information, contact (404) 371 -0772.

About the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities: The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) is the State’s leader in advancing public policy on behalf of persons with developmental disabilities. Its mission is to bring about social and policy changes that promote opportunities for the wide spectrum of diverse people/persons with developmental disabilities and their families to live, learn, work, play, and worship in their communities.

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