Michael Winter, 61, a long-time disability advocate and early leader in the independent living movement, died unexpectedly in Arlington, Va., on July 11.
Winter was born in 1951 with osteogenesis imperfecta and grew up in Chicago. In 1969, Winter enrolled in Southern Illinois University and found the school lacked inclusiveness and accessible transportation. He and other students took over the president’s office and chained a wheelchair to his desk. The university made improvements and Winter’s passion for advocacy grew.
After college, Winter moved to Berkeley in 1977 to take an internship at the fledgling Berkeley Center for Independent Living under Judith Heumann. He served four years as the CIL’s client service manager before moving to Hawaii for two years to direct a CIL. He later returned to Berkeley to serve as director for 12 years. From 1991-95 he served as president of the National Council on Independent Living. He also held various positions at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
At the time of his death, Winter served as senior program analyst with the Office of Research Management, Federal Transit Administration, for the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Winter loved his hometown, wheelchair sports, philosophy, the Chicago Bears and Chicago Cubs. He is survived by Atsuko Kuwana, his wife of 29 years, his son Takayoshi Winter-Kuwana, and many friends and colleagues in the disability community.