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Remembering Paul W. Spooner

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As an early and longtime activist in the Independent Living movement, Paul W. Spooner spoke out often, loudly, and effectively for integration, dignity, and equity for all persons with disabilities.

Paul was born with a genetic muscular atrophy disability that wasn’t evident until he was school-aged. His school options in the 1960s were limited, with disability segregation the practice and classroom integration not mandated by law. Paul ended up going to Massachusetts Hospital School, then set up for students with physical disabilities. This gave him a raw taste of institutional living, something he despised and subsequently opposed the rest of his life.

He began advocating at Southern Massachusetts University (now UMass Dartmouth), aligning with Vietnam veterans seeking recognition for their service in the wake of unfair castigation. After his college graduation, he began work at Independence Associates, the independent living center serving Brockton, and later served as executive director of the MetroWest Center for Independent Living in Framingham for over thirty years.

Paul was a frontline champion for the ADA, served as president of the National Council on Independent Living, and was a vital advocacy leader for the state’s personal care attendant program. His impact was local, statewide, and national.

He passed away after a brief illness on October 8, 2022. This leadership summit honors Paul’s profound fighting spirit for disability rights and legacy of achievement.

Paul W. Spooner with former Attorney General (now Governor) Maura Healy – May 15, 2019. Photo: Sue Rorke