We are deeply saddened to announce that Paula Wolff, who was a board member and staff member at CIDNY for nearly three decades, as well as a longtime disability rights advocate, passed away last night.
Paula joined with other disability rights activists in the 1970s in acts of civil disobedience in order to make NYC buses accessible. Through these efforts, all NYC buses now have lifts which enable wheelchair users to use the same method of transportation as people without disabilities. This victory wouldn’t have been possible without their activism.
She was involved in efforts to make other transportation accessible, to make police stations accessible, and more. She fought for fair and effective laws and policies and was an excellent educator of city and state officials.
Paula had a Masters Degree in Social Work. She was a fierce advocate on behalf of the people she worked with, coming up with solutions and working intensively with people to help eliminate the barriers they faced to independence. She helped people wade through the systems that complicate their housing, health, education, employment, transportation, and more.
She mentored many of our benefits counselors along the way. Her encyclopedic knowledge of disability-related benefits and resources was legendary in our community. She will be greatly missed by the people she helped and by those of us who worked with her.
Susan Dooha, Executive Director of CIDNY, recalls: “Paula had an extraordinary skill that all advocates need to learn. That is, how to see the possibility of change in individual experiences. She understood when people were being blocked by law, regulation, or policy. She activated people as advocates and helped them understand how to be part of making a change. She was an essential advisor in our advocacy meetings and with lawmakers.”
She was an enthusiastic dancer who enjoyed the outdoor music and dancing at Lincoln Center. She was a creative playwright. She loved spending time with friends.
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