BERKELEY — Phil Draper, founder of the Center for Independent Living and a lifelong advocate for the rights of the disabled, has died of cancer. He was 52.
Draper died early Monday at UC San Francisco Medical Center.
He was recognized as a leader for his work in the nationwide disabled community. Draper was paralyzed from the neck down in an automobile accident in 1958, when he was 17.
After spending time in a nursing home, then in an apartment on his own, Draper committed himself to working for the disabled.
In 1972, he helped found the Center for Independent Living, a pioneering effort in allowing the disabled to live self-sufficiently. He ultimately served as executive director of the center and held a number of other posts with the organization as it grew to more than 300 centers in the United States and overseas.
"He was totally unselfish," said Michael Winter, the center's current director. "He really believed in training other people in the philosophy of independent living."
In addition to fighting against discrimination, Draper lobbied for such services as wheelchair curb cuts and repair services to research into new kinds of chairs.
He is survived by his wife, Sharon Draper; his mother, Juanita Primrose; a brother, Dave Draper; and a sister, Rebecca Roberts.