Kate Gainer: Disability Rights in Black 2020

February 15, 2020
Kate Gainer: Disability Rights in Black 2020

It’s day 15 of our #DisabilityRightsInBlack series and we are truly honored to share some spirited wisdom from Kate Gainer! A lifelong advocate and activist, Kate remains a consistent and crucial contributor to the fight for disability rights. Her tireless leadership is a living lesson on perseverance for all of us seeking practical remedies to pervasive inequality. Check out Kate’s incredibly powerful video message.

Kate, we are sincerely thankful for your courage, service, guidance and continued commitment to disability rights.

More about Kate Gainer:

  • Born October 24, 1948. Atlanta, GA
  • Started school at age 4, C. W. Hill Elementary, 1953, first black special education class in Atlanta
  • Attended Booker T. Washington High
  • Attended Georgia State University, Marketing major with a concentration in Advertising
  • President of the Disabled Students Association at Georgia State University
  • Miss Wheelchair Georgia, 1981, third runner-up in Miss Wheelchair America
  • Member of the Board of Directors, United Cerebral Palsy
  • Member of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, 1983 – 93
  • Member of the National Championship Wheelchair Soccer Team, 1983 and 1984
  • Member of ADAPT 1986 – Present
  • Disability Coordinator for the 1988 National Democratic Convention Planning Committee
  • Project Coordinator and Recreational Events Coordinator for Atlanta Center for Independent Living
  • ADA Training Coordinator for Georgia ARC
  • Disability Affairs Coordinator for City of Atlanta, 1992 – 96
  • Project Coordinator and Diversity Coordinator for the Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center, 1996 – 99
  • National Project Coordinator on Disability Awareness for CityCares
  • Assistant Project Coordinator for Voices That Count, Advocacy Director at disABILITY LINK
  • Member of People First of Atlanta
  • President of the Long Road Home Planning Committee
  • Advocacy Director for the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities
  • Mother of Michael Elliot Smith
  • Grandmother of Camil Ivyan Smith

“When the laws changed and society changed, [Kate Gainer] said she had the right to get in front of the bus, but it wasn’t until much later that she was actually able to get on the bus because she used a wheelchair.”

News clipping from Wednesday, August 19, 1953. Photo of a young Kate Gainer wearing a white dress next to two doctors, one with a medical knee reflex hammer mallet, captioned “EXAMINED FOR CEREBRAL PALSY CLASS, Dr. Nellie Gainer, Dr. Harriet Gillette and Dr. Robert Kelly”. Article title, “At Charles W. Hill Negro Cerebral Palsy Class To Open in Fall,” A class for Negro children who are victims of cerebral palsy will begin at thee Charles W. Hill Elementary School this fall. Beginning the cerebral palsied program in the Negro public school, the class will enroll about eight children. Facilities will be expanded as personnel are trained. The program is sponsored by the Cerebral Palsey School Clinic of Atlanta, Inc., are the State Health Department in co-operation with the Atlantic Board of Education. Funds were supplied by the sale of newspapers on Old Newsboy Day, sponsored by the Atlanta Variety Club and Atlanta Newspapers, Inc.. Special equipment and supplies will be furnished by the Georgia Society for Crippled Children, which is supported by the sale of Easter seals. Applicants were examined for admission to the class Tuesday at the State Health Department’s crippled children’s clinic on Eighth Street. To be eligible a child must be a cerebral palsy victim four to eight years old who is physically handicapped to such a point that he is unable to attend a regular public school. An advisory board of Negro women has been set up to work with the directors of the program. On the board are Mrs. Samuel Z. Westerfield, Miss Mary Harris, Mrs. Julian…

C.W. Hill Elementary school announcement from 1953, featuring a photo with Kate Gainer


A book with the title "Portrait of Spirit: One Story at a Time" with a photo of Kate Gainer smiling in her wheelchair in a large marble detailedroom

Kate Gainer on the cover of the 1996 book “Portrait of Spirit”


Newspaper clipping with the title “Wheelin’ around,” Mayor Bill Campbel, proclaiming last Tuesday Disability Awareness Week in Atlanta, took to the streets in a wheelchair to experience first-hand the difficulties the disabled confront in traversing the streets of Atlanta. Along for the ride were members of the American Disabilities Resource Center, including the organization’s information specialist, Kate Gainer (to the right of mayor). After his 40-minute journey, the semi-exhausted Campbell said he experienced how even the smallest obstacle, like a curbcut of a pothole, can impair maneuverability to the disabled – Jeff Slate… end clipping

Article from Atlanta newspaper featuring a photo with Kate Gainer

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