Feb 21

Black History Month – Joyce Ardell Jackson

In 1947, Joyce Ardell Jackson was born in Berkeley, California. At the age of 12, she contracted arthritis and underwent more than fifty operations throughout her life. Through perseverance, Jackson graduated from Santa Clara University and began working at the Center for Independent Living, a decision that would change the trajectory of career. 

In April of 1977, Jackson participated in a disability rights sit-in led by disability rights advocate Judy Heumann. Along with approximately 150 severely disabled demonstrators, Jackson occupied the San Francisco regional offices of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) for over a month, demanding that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 be enforced. As the nationwide protests continued, Jackson was one of twenty activists sent to Washington, D.C., to meet with Carter administration officials.

While in the nation’s capitol, the activists convinced HEW officials to implement Section 504 – the landmark civil rights legislation prohibiting federally funded agencies, programs, and activities from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Moving forward, all agencies and programs receiving federal funds were required to accommodate individuals with disabilities, ensuring accessibility to opportunities in education, employment, housing, and other areas.

In the years to come, Jackson would serve three terms on the national board of the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities, attending board meetings at the ACCD home office in Washington, D.C., and traveling throughout the country to answer questions regarding Section 504. She also continued working as a disability counselor for nonprofits and as a telecommunications support representative in the private sector, eventually retiring in the 1990’s. Learn more about Joyce Ardell Jackson and her life here

Photo of Joyce Ardell Jackson