Black History Month is an opportunity for us to learn about the work of Black people in the disability community now and in the past. In this blog, we’re remembering Donald Galloway.

Advocate and Disability Activist Don Galloway was one of the many inclusion pioneers who stood at the intersection of two communities demanding justice. Born in 1938 in Washington DC, he became disabled at age thirteen after being struck in the eyes by a friend’s bow and arrow.

Galloway joined Ed Roberts at the Center for Independent Living in California as its director of services for blind people in 1974 where he soon began pressing the disability rights movement, which was almost entirely white, to become more inclusive of people of color. His work ensured that Black voices became part of the disability conversation.

Galloway successfully challenged discriminatory laws that barred people with disabilities from serving as employees in the United States Foreign Service. He said, “My belief system is a person with a disability shouldn’t be hired to just work with disabled organizations and on disabled issues. That may be the first step, but we should branch out…And that’s the key of success to me – is to see how we bring in other brothers and sisters to work in all capacities.”

Galloway was appointed the first blind person to serve as a Peace Corps Director in Jamaica, where he was responsible for the placement and support of 160 volunteers. Later, he traveled extensively around the globe, conducting research and providing technical assistance. Throughout his career he held influential positions, including leading the Colorado Governor’s Council on Disability, running the Center for Independent Living’s Washington D.C. branch, and serving in the D.C. Departments of Housing and Community Development and Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

Galloway’s advocacy was not limited to his career. In 1991, Galloway was called for jury duty. When he arrived in the courtroom with his guide dog, he was dismissed because he wouldn’t be able to see the proceedings. He sued and in 1993 a judge ruled that automatically disqualifying blind people from jury service was unconstitutional.

Don Galloway passed away in 2011.

Sources: Washington Post, Center for Learner Equity, Mobility International USA


Remembering Disability Activist Don Galloway