[Nfbc-info] Ed Eames fought for rights of disabled

ckrugman at sbcglobal.net ckrugman at sbcglobal.net
Wed Oct 28 09:24:42 UTC 2009

Ed Eames fought for rights of disabled 
Published online on Monday, Oct. 26, 2009
By Paula Lloyd / The Fresno Bee
 Ed Eames, who lost his sight at age 42, spent the rest of his life advocating for the needs of people with disabilities.

Mr. Eames, 79, who died Sunday, worked to improve bus service for the disabled, founded an organization for people who use assistance dogs and lobbied for more sidewalks.

"He was a fighter, but he also was a thinker," said Fresno City Council Member Henry T. Perea. "He knew the issues, but he did his homework." 

Perea represents the city's District 7, in which Mr. Eames lived.

"I'll never forget the first time I met Ed," Perea said. "I was campaigning door-to-door and he was one of the few people who invited me in. We sat around his kitchen table and talked issues for a good hour."

Sidewalks were a big issue to Mr. Eames, Perea said. He wanted to see sidewalks throughout Fresno, even in county islands, because they're easier for people who use wheelchairs to negotiate.

Mr. Eames and his wife, Toni, who also is blind, met while living in New York when he was writing a book to guide dog schools.

He invited her to be a co-author on the book. "And one thing led to another," she said. "He was my favorite topic" of conversation.

The couple came to Fresno in 1987 shortly after they married to team-teach a class at California State University, Fresno, on the sociology of disabilities. Mr. Eames was on sabbatical from Bernard M. Baruch College in New York City, but they fell in love with Fresno and retired here.

Mr. Eames became involved in improving services to the disabled. "He wanted a barrier-free Fresno," his wife said.

Mr. Eames founded and was president of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners. A memorial page on the organization's Web site called him "one of our great champions."

He served on the Americans With Disabilities Act Advisory Committee for Fresno Area Express.

"He was a mentor and a great guy," said Paul Kwiatkowski, manager of Handy Ride, which provides transportation for disabled people.

"He certainly helped improve the lives of people with disabilities in Fresno," Kwiatkowski said. "The city is unfortunately going to miss him."

Mr. Eames inspired those who provide services to the disabled "to realize we impact the people who need us the most," Kwiatkowski said, and influence improvements to the Handy Ride system.

Mr. Eames was a member and past president of the North Fresno Lions Club, said Steve Wakefield, who drove Mr. Eames and his service dog, Latrell, to weekly meetings.

"He was such a great guy," Wakefield said. "I learned a lot about the lives of the disabled from him."

Mr. Eames was an example of one person making a difference. Perea recalled a demonstration Mr. Eames helped organize in which civic leaders spent several hours as if they were disabled.

"It was my job to navigate City Hall and downtown in a wheelchair," Perea said. "For me, it was a real eye-opener. He's done a lot for the people of Fresno." 


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