Monday, June 13, 2011

Remembering Helen Roth, Disability Rights Leader

Click to see story at AAPD's Justice for All Blog

From American Association of People with Disabilities (6.10.11):

It is with that a sad and heavy heart that AAPD reports the passing of Helen Roth. Helen played a key leadership role in AAPD’s development –Board Member, Committee Chair, Officer and Board Chair.  In every role, Helen did it with grace, intelligence, passion and always with a kind and caring heart.  She will be sorely missed.

Helen Roth
Helen was born in 1927 in Logan, Utah, the fourth child of Alta and John Coburn. Helen contracted polio in 1939, thereafter spending several years in children’s hospitals. This experience never dimmed her spirit and energy, nor did the resulting quadriplegia.

She went on to earn a BS in Psychology from USU, and later received an MS in Psychology from Penn State. This was followed by graduate studies at Harvard. After Harvard, Helen’s life was one of service to others. She worked for several social service agencies including the Office of Economic Opportunity in San Francisco, serving under future U.S. Rep. Ron Dellums.

After returning to Logan in 1971, she worked for the Bear River Association of Governments and later founded Options for Independence, a non-profit Center for Independent Living which served people with disabilities in Cache Valley and beyond.

Helen’s advocacy extended beyond state and local efforts to movement-building on a national scale. Helen’s was deeply involved with the leadership of the National Council on Independent Living, serving for several years as internal vice-president.  As Helen’s activism sought to build bridges between various social justice movements, she was also involved in organizations such as the League of Women Voters, ACLU, and Common Cause.

During her time with AAPD, Helen assumed key leadership roles for our organization. After taking up various officer positions and leading the membership and governance committee, Helen went on to serve as AAPD Board Chair for two years. She made an indelible impression upon AAPD as both a dedicated colleague and an inspirational friend.

Helen once said “I will never abandon the effort on a national level (or any other level) to improve conditions for people with disabilities. I encourage you to put at least some of your energy into advocacy efforts on a national level. National advocacy is the most effective way to make needed changes for vast numbers of people with disabilities.” AAPD seeks to honor Helen’s legacy in our work every day.

 Helen received much recognition for her work, culminating in a presentation by Senator Harkin of the Frank Harkin Memorial Award. A live spark of joy and inspiration to all who knew her, she will be remembered for the passion, kindness and inspiration she shared with everyone she knew.

She is survived by her son, Peter Grieve. A memorial service will be held on Monday, June 13, 2011 at 12:00 noon at the Logan 11th Ward Chapel, 195 S 100 East. Condolences may be sent to the family at

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