Wednesday, November 19, 2008

RIP, Ricki Landers

Yesterday, the Salt Lake Tribune reported on the death on Sunday of disability activist and champion for child victims of domestic violence Ricki Landers. Ricki Landers was born in Biloxi, Mississipi, on January 24, 1957. In the 1970's, she moved to Utah, where she became an activist for many causes. Ms Landers, who died of liver failure, had multiple sclerosis and used a wheelchair for most of her adult life. She is survived by a son, Chris Andrews, and two sisters, Susie Robinson and Sandra McMillan. The title of her obituary in the Salt Lake Tribune is "I would rather go to jail than a nursing home," and is subtitled "Ricki Landers wasn't afraid to get arrested in her campaigns for disability rights." Below is an excerpt:
"She was on the forefront of arrests," said Barbara Toomer, a fellow activist through Utah's Disabled Rights Community Action Center (DRAC). "It was a badge of honor."

Landers would show up in Chicago to protest the lack of accommodations for wheelchairs at a major sports arena, or in Columbus, Ohio, to protest the policy against home health care.

"We would shut down entire buildings," said Toomer, "by placing our wheelchairs in the entrances of elevators so the doors wouldn't close. We wanted the people to know what it was like to be confined."

A champion for child victims of domestic violence, Landers would collect toys and items for youngsters in shelters, then organize parties when the gifts were delivered, said Janalee Tobias, who met Landers through Women Against Gun Control (WAGC).

"She would hold her homemade sign from her wheelchair at gun-rights rallies that said, "I can't kick a rapist where it counts." She also embroidered in pink a sign that she attached to her wheelchair that said, "Hell on Wheels."

"I've never met a more generous person in my life," said Toomer. "If she had a sweater and someone with her was cold, she would give that person her sweater."