Media & Publications
A Tribute to Lois Curtis
Beloved artist and hero of the disability rights movement,
passes away at 55 years old.
Posted on November 10, 2022
SAN RAFAEL, CA – On November 3rd, Lois Curtis, a beloved artist and hero of the disability rights movement, passed away in her home in Atlanta, Georgia. Marin Center for Independent Living joins Lois' family and loved ones in mourning her passing and celebrating her life and accomplishments. In 1999, Lois was a plaintiff in the landmark Olmstead v. LC case, which created the legal precedent that protects the rights of disabled people to live and receive services in their communities. The lives of many disabled people, including those served by and working at Marin CIL, would not be the same without her stand to insist upon her dignity and freedom.
When she was 11, Lois was institutionalized at the Georgia Regional Hospital. Eight years later, she had decided that she wanted to live with dignity and as part of the community, and began communicating with Atlanta Legal Aid to help her exercise her freedom. After years of legal fights, Lois, as well as Elaine Wilson, and their supporters, won their fight, when the Supreme Court handed down its historic ruling on the rights of disabled people to live and receive services in their communities as covered by the American with Disabilities Act. The late Justice Ginsburg, writing for the majority, said:
"First, institutional placement of persons who can handle and benefit from community settings perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life… Second, confinement in an institution severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment."
In the days since her passing, present leaders in the disability rights movement have spoken out about what Lois' meant to them. Olivia Glaubiger, an emerging disabled leader at Marin CIL said of Lois:
"Like so many amazing disabled leaders that came before my time, I didn't get the chance to meet Lois Curtis, but I certainly felt as if I knew her. As a young disabled woman, I viewed Lois as one of the best advocates our community has had. A disabled woman of color who believed in herself and fought over and over again to live her best life in the community instead of being shut away in an institution. I hope to become half the advocate she was for herself and the entire disability community that she paved the way for."
Christina Mills, who connected with Lois as the Statewide Community Organizer for CFILC, said of their connection:
"Aside from being an advocate and activist, Lois was also a beautiful artist and entrepreneur. She came prepared to California with her pad of paper and pencils. If she liked you, she'd say, "Let me draw your picture." Then she'd say, "$2.00." I loved it! Lois' passing is a huge loss to our community, but what a giant mark she made for all of us while she was here."
It must be said, in this case as in so many others, that the rights of millions were advanced by a black woman insisting upon the recognition of her humanity. Marin CIL is committed to the struggle for black liberation from the scourge of racism that pervades our society.
Most of all, we mourn the loss of a remarkable woman, and wish her family and loved ones peace and comfort in their grief. Rest in Power, Lois Curtis.
Contributions to cover Lois' final expenses may be directed to:
Floral arrangements for her viewing and funeral service, which will take place on November 11th and 12th, may be sent to:
Donald Trimble Funeral Home
1876 2nd Ave.
Decatur, GA 30032
Phone: (404) 371-0772
A Tribute to Disability Queen Lois Curtis
By Disability Leader Christina Mills
As the CFILC Statewide Community Organizer one of my jobs was organizing the annual Disability Capitol Action Day (DCAD). The event brings folks from across the state and based on each year's specific advocacy priorities there would be anywhere from 1,000 – 3,500 participants. People across all intersections. Families, allies, advocates, activists, policy makers, service providers, etc. It was huge! My most memorable year was 2009, the 10-year anniversary of the Olmstead Decision, when I invited one of the two plaintiff's who won the landmark disability community right to live in the community/most restricted environment. I reached out to invite Lois to attend DCAD to recognize her advocacy, I quickly realized that she had significant disabilities. Lois was not able to easily communicate over the phone. I knew she had I/DD and MH disabilities, but I had no idea how it impacted her daily list. Lois had an amazing Caregiver named Hollis. Hollis was able to foster the conversation and invite that I was trying to articulate to Lois. With her help Lois accepted my invite to DCAD and shortly there after I was booking their flight to Sacramento. I felt like I was meeting the Pope! I personally picked them both up from the airport and took special care of them throughout their short three days here. Now I have to mention, that was after they almost didn't arrive at all. Again, I had no idea what Lois' daily life looked like and that also meant I didn't know she smoked. When I got a call from Hollis during their layover in Phoenix I nearly had a panic attack. Lois wasn't sure if they were going to make it because they were escorted off the plane when they landed. Lois had snuck cigarettes in her bra and decided she needed one badly while flying. I mean, it was her first flight across the country, I don't blame her, maybe she had anxiety and wasn't able to articulate it. Well, she went into the restroom on the flight, lit the cigarette and was caught! The Marshalls met them when they landed and interviewed them extensively to figure out what was going on. I wasn't only worried about Lois and Hollis, but also all the thousands of people coming to DCAD who were going to hate me if they didn't get to meet Lois. Needless to say, she made it.
Aside from being an advocate and activist, Lois was also a beautiful artist and entrepreneur. She came prepared to California with her pad of paper and pencils. If she liked you, she'd say, "Let me draw your picture." Then she'd say, "$2.00." I loved it! Lois' passing is a huge loss to our community, but what a giant mark she made for all of us while she was here.