[Perform-talk] Washington Post Reports Passing of Blind Advocate

Donna Hill penatwork at epix.net
Sun Jul 12 17:01:35 UTC 2009

 From the Washington Post:

Advocate for Blind Helped Craft Disabilities Law

By T. Rees Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 12, 2009

Harold W. Snider, 61, a prominent advocate for the blind who helped 
craft legislation that expanded the civil rights of Americans with 
disabilities and
aided in the launching of an audible newspaper service, died June 26 at 
his home in Rockville after a heart attack.

While growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., Mr. Snider said he was forced 
out of regular third-grade classes because he was blind. His parents 
sued the Duval
County school system, and Mr. Snider became the first blind student in 
the county to graduate from public school.

The experience launched Mr. Snider's interest in advocacy, and in the 
mid-1970s he reportedly became the first blind employee of the 
Smithsonian Institution.
As a handicap program coordinator for the fledgling National Air and 
Space Museum, he worked to make the facility a vivid experience for the 

"You can't look at the spacecraft, so you touch it, or you hold a model 
of it or a raised line picture of it," Mr. Snider told United Press 
in 1976. "You can't see an airplane, so you hear its engine roar."

In 1978, he started Access for the Handicapped, a District-based 
consulting company for guidance on policy, technology and resources for 
people with disabilities.
Through his company, he worked on projects for people with disabilities 
around the world, including Zambia, Ecuador and South Korea.

After Mr. Snider worked for the Republican National Committee on 
disability issues, President George H.W. Bush appointed him in 1990 as 
deputy executive
director of the National Council on Disability. In that role, he served 
as a liaison among the council, the White House, Congress and the media.

He also helped draft the sweeping Americans With Disabilities Act of 
1990, which broadened civil rights already protected in earlier 
legislation. The act
guarantees protection of disabled people from discrimination in the 
public and private sectors and regardless of whether agencies or 
businesses receive
federal aid.

After Mr. Snider left the council in 1992, he worked in conjunction with 
the National Federation of the Blind to develop NFB-Newsline, a free 
newspaper and magazine service that includes daily editions of The 
Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall 
Street Journal
among its more than 250 publications. It debuted in 1994 and claims more 
than 50,000 users.

In addition, Mr. Snider was a former chairman of Montgomery County's 
Commission on People With Disabilities.

Harold Wexler Snider, whose father was a dentist, was born Sept. 6, 
1947, in Jacksonville. He graduated in 1969 from Georgetown University's 
School of Foreign
Service, where he was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, but 
told UPI that he was not allowed to take the Foreign Service examination 
of prejudice.

In 1970, he received his master's degree in British imperial and 
commonwealth history from the University of London and did postgraduate 
work at the University
of Oxford.

About this time, he married Gail Lovelace, a British woman who also was 
blind. They divorced in 1994, the same year he married Linda Fossett. 
All three
remained on good terms, with the two wives calling each other 

Survivors include his second wife, of Rockville; two children from his 
first marriage, David Snider of Alexandria and Ellen Underwood of 
Fairfax County;
three stepchildren; his mother, Shirley Snider of Jacksonville; two 
sisters; and three grandchildren.

Mr. Snider collected antique phones and music boxes, played the 
accordion, and spoke fluent French and Spanish. He was considered 
outspoken and sometimes
called militant in his role as an advocate. But he also said he saw a 
value in using humor to make sighted people feel comfortable around him.

He said he was sometimes asked how blind people performed tasks such as 
crossing the street, cutting a sandwich or, as the more curious would 
ponder, having

"I tell them I do it like everybody else," Mr. Snider told the New York 
Times. "In the dark."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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