Max Starkloff, St Louis-based disabilities advocate, dies at 73

The St Louis Beacon, Riverfront Times, and other media outlets are reporting on the death of Max Starkloff, influential advocate for the disabled.  Starkloff became a paraplegic in 1959 as the result of an automobile crash. He helped found Paraquad, which has become (among other things) one of the state's leading advocate for mobility for disabled Missourians and one of the supporters of Complete Streets in Missouri.

He led the Starkloff Disability Institute, which (among other things) tackled the issue of transportation for people with disabilities.

The Beacon discussed about the campaign that propelled Starkloff to national prominence:

One of the more dramatic encounters involved the Bi-State Development Agency, which in 1976 was about to replace 157 of its aging buses with new ones. Mr. Starkloff thought the new vehicles ought to be equipped with wheelchair lifts, one more step toward independent living for people with disabilities.

Bi-State argued the lifts would be prohibitively expensive and offered a Call-A-Ride service. Starkloff and others argued the service was discriminatory. Able-bodied people didn’t need to make appointments to catch a bus.

Other cities were also engaged in negotiations over bus service, but St. Louis was considered a flashpoint because of Mr. Starkloff’s refusal to compromise on the issue. Whenever a hearing was held, Paraquad made sure to pack the room with disabled people who would speak passionately about their needs. It made for great television.

After three years, Bi-State agreed to provide the lifts for the buses – the first in the nation to do so -- and to continue its Call-A-Ride Service as well.

The Beacon runs down some of the improvements in disabilities access that have happened in the region. About 18% of the general population is disabled at any given time and virtually 100% will be temporary or permanently disabled at some point.

Complete Streets, one of the main thrusts of MoBikeFed's Vision of Bicycling and Walking in Missouri, is designed to ensure that all roads, street, and community design meet the mobility needs of all citizens.