New Mobility contributor and former senior editor Douglas P. Lathrop passed away on August 15, leaving a legacy of important disability articles and essays, and 14 issues of Kids on Wheels. He had been celebrating his 50th birthday with a few dozen of his friends when he sustained fractures in his legs — he had osteogenesis imperfecta and his bones fractured very easily. Lathrop went to the hospital to have casts put on, but died five days later from complications.
Known for his wit, Lathrop had summed up his birthday weekend to a friend like this: “So it was an, ‘Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?’ kind of birthday.”
Lathrop, who lived in San Diego, joined New Mobility’s editorial team in 1998, and previously was on staff at Mainstream Magazine. He took a hiatus from New Mobility to edit our sister publication, Kids On Wheels, from 2005 to 2009. His vision for KOW was to make it like Ranger Rick, only for pre-teens who use wheelchairs.
“Doug was perfect for Kids on Wheels because he could relate to what young wheelchair users were going through — but from the perspective of a successful professional with a strong sense of disability pride. Those young readers — and their parents — were lucky to see his example of accomplishment and self-respect in every issue,” says Jean Dobbs, vice president of communications for United Spinal and editorial director of New Mobility.
“Doug Lathrop was a significant voice of the disability community through his writing and editing for both disability and mainstream publications,” adds Beth Haller, graduate director of the communication management master’s program at Towson University and also adjunct faculty at York University’s critical disability studies graduate program. “I still quote an article he did for the Society of Professional Journalists’ publication, Quill, called ‘Challenging Perceptions.’” That article appeared in the July/August 1995 issue.
Lathrop also wrote a novel, Reconquista, which won Best Unpublished Fiction in the 2011 San Diego Book Awards. In Lathrop’s words, the book, “a dystopian thriller, takes a terrifying look at an alternate America, where history took what seemed like a turn for the better … and then drove straight into a nightmare.” His short fiction has appeared in The Belletrist Review, Kaleidoscope, Mindscapes Literary Magazine, and Palace Corbie.
A celebration of life for Lathrop was held on August 23 at 4 p.m. in the Meeting House on the Hillcrest Campus of First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, where Lathrop served on the board of trustees. Lathrop is survived by his parents, Raymond and Patricia, and his siblings, Daniel, David and Debbie. Also, an annual scholarship fund to benefit GLBT students who use wheelchairs has been set up in Lathrop’s name.
Here are links to staff favorites of Lathrop’s New Mobility articles:
A Tale of Two Closets, a ground-breaking article chronicling Lathrop’s journey to accepting himself as both a disabled and a gay man. This is Lathrop’s most vulnerable article, where he plumbed his heart and shared it with our readers.
The Education of Professir X, an excellent profile of Richard Gaskins, with special attention given to sexuality.
The Politics of Dancing, which explores punk rock, slam dancing, and reluctance of some wheelchair users to get out on the floor.
Tending Emotions: Cultivating Humor, Owning Grief and Anger Scroll down to read Lathrop’s section, “The Secret Life of Tiny Tim.”
Ice Cream —Yes, Polyester — No This “ode to being single” showcases Lathrop’s humor.
Who Lost the ADA? In 2003, Lathrop took a good hard look at sluggish ADA enforcement and wrote about it. Some of his findings are still relevant today and it may be interesting to compare this with his later article, “The ADA Turns 20: Half-Empty, Half-Full or Both,” in New Mobility’s July 2010 issue.
The article “Disaster!,” about emergency preparedness, appeared in Mainstream Magazine’s November 1994 issue.