Known as the "Champion for the People with Disability Rights" Lex Frieden is a true personification of resolve and bravery. His deep-rooted commitment to advocating disability rights unfolded a journey of sweeping change in the lives of billions. As an American educator, policy specialist, and disability rights advocate, Frieden's life is a dolmen of incredible strength and learning experiences.
Frieden is the heart of America's most crucial civil rights legislative policy. Through his ceaseless efforts, Frieden successfully created a ripple effect throughout generations. His all-embracing contributions to the field of disability deserve extraordinary appreciation.
Early Education of Lex Frieden
Lex Frieden was born on March 5, 1949, in Alva, Oklahoma. He graduated in 1967 from Alva Senior High School. While in high school, Frieden demonstrated supreme leadership qualities and strong moral values. He was the president of his high school church youth group and national honor society. After completing high school, he went to Oklahoma State University for a bachelor's in electrical engineering.
Frieden's early childhood and formative education years were exemplary until an abrupt tragedy reshaped his life and those around him.
The Life-Changing Adolescence Years
Lex Frieden was a cerebral young adult in college. He was 18 years of age, still a bright freshman at Oklahoma State University, when his car got into an appalling accident on one Thanksgiving weekend in 1967. His pals accompanied him in the car, but they remained relatively unharmed. Frieden's life, however, took a radical turn as he suffered from a throbbing spinal cord injury and a fractured neck. His lower body underwent complete paralysis after the incident.
His contemporaries deemed this a tragedy and an end to his exceptional collegiate years. But being a beacon of strength, Frieden returned to college after six months of rehabilitation at The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, Memorial Herrman, in Houston, Texas. Frieden had unwavering support from his family and friends during this time. At the rehabilitation center, he encountered Dr. William A. Spencer, the founder of TIRR, who mentored him later in life.
In a shocking turn of events, Frieden also faced a refusal from the college despite his exceptional score when he wanted to continue his studies after recovery. The university denied admission because they rendered his wheelchair an obstruction. Frieden felt dismayed, but It did not break his spirit, nonetheless. Eventually, he completed his bachelor's in psychology from the University of Tulsa and a master's in social psychology from the University of Houston.
One tragic episode brought a sea change in Frieden's perspective toward life. He realized the gravity of the situation and decided to transform lives for the positive. So, he dedicated his life-long struggles to sustaining the right to life for people with disabilities.
Advocacy for Disability Rights
Lex Frieden commenced his activism for disability rights when he secured admission to Tulsa University. The dean agreed to hold Frieden's classes in a separate accessible building. This campus was one of the first accessible for people with disabilities, owing to Frieden's tireless work with university administrators.
He whole-heartedly participated in student activities and gathered a group with a shared goal – the restitution of disability rights. He authored articles and spoke on public platforms stating the needs of wheelchair users.
In 1972, he accepted a fellowship offer that facilitated disabled individuals under duress in hospitals or nursing homes to live independently. Frieden's utmost sincerity towards his goal knew no bounds. Later, he became a resident manager of a cooperative living project and a research officer for a transitional living program.
Frieden also allied a barrier-free living in Houston. His activism influenced millions, and thousands took to the streets to protest against the unequal rights of impaired individuals. He extensively voiced his concerns which led to a visible change in public policy for people with disabilities.
His Far-reaching Contributions to Public Service
Lex Frieden was a professional in the US House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology from 1976 to 1978. The project led to the conception of the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research – a unit providing research support for rehabilitation for individuals with disabilities.
Frieden was a central figure in establishing the law called 'the Americans with Disabilities Act.' In 1986, he teamed up with notable personalities and drafted a report named 'Toward Independence' assessing the federal laws affecting people with disabilities and the legislative recommendations to counter the cause. He desired to present this draft to President Reagan on the same day of launching the Space Shuttle Challenger.
Therefore, he delivered the report to the vice president at the time, George Bush, in the White House. The turnout was a blessing in disguise as he promised Frieden to endorse the cause if he rose to a position of power. So, Friden was appointed an executive director of the National Council on Disability (NCD) when George Bush became the president.
Stirring with deep inspiration, Frieden worked relentlessly to sketch the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law demonstrating equal rights to life for people with disabilities. Bush officially signed the ADA on July 26, 1990, making history. Frieden is now nationally known as the chief architect of the ADA following his tireless efforts in crafting the law.
On the 12th anniversary of ADA, President Bush appointed Lex Frieden as the chairman of NCD during a special ceremony. Through this position, Frieden globally championed the rights of people with disabilities. He worked to create a barrier-free life for quadriplegic individuals by incorporating adaptive communities, technological devices, support groups, and emergency preparedness.
Lex Frieden always cherished a radiant and fulfilling personal life. Frieden married Joyce Castle in 1977, who he met at the University of Houston. Being diplegic, Joyce was also a wheelchair user owing to a rare disease, encephalomyelitis.
Frieden took the first step and initiated a formal meeting. A mild flood struck Houston the same night and compelled Joyce to stay at his place. Thisled to their institution of marriage, which he treasures deeply thus far. Later, Joyce's daughter Melissa joined the beautiful family at 11 years of age. Given Melissa's strained marriage situation, they legally adopted her son, Trey O'Connor, who is now 32 years.
Frieden's household was joined by another sparkling figure, Mac Brodie. Brodie was an intimate friend of Lex Frieden from his university years. He suffered a cognitive impairment as a Vietnam veteran. So, he lived with his confidant as a housemate, helping him with daily activities such as grooming, eating, and dressing. Whereas, Friden assisted Mac in decision-making and memory retrieval.
All envision a shared dream of creating a safe space for impaired individuals where they have access to equal opportunities and public policy rights. Hence, they strive together for an all-inclusive and more compassionate world that values their uniqueness and the likes of them.
Academic and Research Accomplishments
Frieden moved forward with his cause through a holistic approach. Besides his legislative efforts, he actively engaged himself in authoring articles and reports for public understanding. In 1988 Congressman Owens appointed Frieden as a coordinator to a Congressional Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of People with Disabilities. During this time, he produced diverse reports with data highlighting the discrimination faced by impaired individuals.
As a chairman of NCD, the team under Frieden's leadership inducted a report named 'Righting the ADA.' The suggestions mentioned in the report led to the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, making the ADA law more impactful. Likewise, he published several books that promote independent living for people with disabilities. He also owns two presidential citations for his remarkable work in disability.
Frieden was honored as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans by the U.S. Jaycees in 1983. He won the Henry B. Belts Award, featuring his diligent efforts to improve the living standards of people with disabilities. In 2011 the Lex Frieden Awards were introduced in Texas Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities. They honored his advocative attempts to secure the rights to employment for people with disabilities.
Besides winning a Henry Viscardi Achievement Award in 2013, Frieden received the distinguished Fries Prize from CDC Foundation, Atlanta, Georgia, in 2017.
At present, Frieden teaches Health Informatics and Rehabilitation at the University of Texas Health Science Center. He is appointed a director at Independent Living Research Utilization Program at TIRR, Memorial Hermann. Plus, he is a board member of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas.
It's a Wrap
Lex Frieden's whole life is an embodiment of admiration and praise. His unyielding loyalty to his aim offers profound experiences we must preserve to pass on the torch he illuminated to future generations. If you would like to hear more directly from him here's a link to an interview with him.
As Frieden made transformative changes on his path to self-discovery, Rosarium Health empowers people with disabilities to evolve and live independently. By connecting clients and service providers, Rosarium Health aims for an all-inclusive, barrier-free world. They offer accessible home modifications encouraging people of all ages to live a life of freedom and self-reliance.
Side by side, the mission of Rosarium Health and Lex Frieden reflects hope and perseverance, despite enormous challenges, uplifting the spirits of many during the journey.