child hugging her mother

Who’s First?

People are first — when speaking about people living with disabilities, it’s key to refer to them as people first. This may sound obvious to many, but it’s especially close to our hearts at Mercy Housing. We serve thousands of people living with disabilities, and that’s why we’re honoring National Disability Day. This is just one day, but using people-first language is something everyone can do every day. Our society still has a long way to go in showing people living with disabilities the respect, justice, and mercy they deserve. But thanks to Marilyn Saviola, we’ve made a lot of progress over the years.

activist marilyn saviola on sidewalk
Marilyn Saviola, 2005 (Photo by James Estrin/The New York Times)

She Made a Difference

Marilyn Saviola got polio when she was a child. It made her quadriplegic, but that never kept her from pursuing her dreams. Her legacy of advocating for people with disabilities has inspired and helped countless people all over the world. She recently passed away on November 23 at the age of 74. The impact of her life’s work will be felt for generations.

Ms. Saviola at work for Independence Care System
Marilyn Saviola, 2005 (Photo by James Estrin/The New York Times)

Where it All Began

As a teen, Ms. Saviola was frustrated with how limited her options were for socializing and being active as a person living with a disability. She turned that frustration into action in the late 1960s. At this time, the movement to protect people with disabilities rights was in its infancy. Eventually, Ms. Saviola went on to be the executive director of the advocacy group Center for the Independence of the Disabled in New York. She spent 20 years with the Independence Care System pioneering their women’s health and advocacy programs.

handicap sign

Her Own Home

After growing up with polio, a big step for her was moving into her own place in 1973. Ms. Saviola did this because she wanted independence, the independence she needed to pursue her dreams. Like many Mercy Housing residents, she simply wanted to live in a place where she could make her own schedule and decide her own priorities so that she could focus on her passions. It paid off.

Her activism and career led to leaps and bounds for people with special needs’ housing, transportation, and education. Simple things like sidewalk ramps haven’t always been a staple of our communities. Today they are, thanks to fearless people like Ms. Saviola.

aromor apartments in denver
The Aromor Apartments is a Mercy Housing community that currently serves people with special needs.

More Than a Day

It’s great to honor National Disability Day, and there are so many ways to continue this every day. Think about how you can improve your workplace and community to respect and include people living with a disability.

Last December, Mercy Housing staff from Resident Services and Property Management paid a visit to the Seattle hospital intensive care unit to help Robert, a potential resident, with his application for residency in the brand new wing of our property in Tacoma, WA.
Mercy Housing resident, Robert and his therapy dog Turkey.

Did You Know?

Companies that hire people living with a disability on average perform better according to a recent study.

*This article referenced a New York Times article for the information regarding Marilyn Saviola, including the photos of her.