When Kevin McGuire was 7 years old, he was hit by a drunk driver and left paralyzed from the waist down. At the time, there were no laws to protect people with disabilities, but McGuire credits his persistent parents for teaching him to be self-reliant at every phase of his development. Today, he’s one of our country’s leading advocates for the disabled, working tirelessly to improve accessibility at public venues across the nation.
Boston University’s BU Today ran a feature article about McGuire last year (he is an alum), detailing how a young McGuire received a heartfelt note from U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy when he heard about McGuire’s paralysis (he himself had broken his back in a plane crash and eventually recovered). “If I can do it, you can do it,” Kennedy wrote to McGuire – a note that inspired him to pursue politics. During his freshman year at BU, he realized this goal by becoming a staff assistant for Senator Kennedy.
And now, many years later and through the work of his consulting firm McGuire Associates, McGuire is inspiring others to spread the message of accessibility for all. One particularly poignant story that stands out to McGuire is the time he received a note from a little boy who was deaf, and had just seen a movie in a theater that McGuire had worked to make accessible by installing a captioning system. His note, says the BU article, thanked McGuire for the movie, for the popcorn and above all, for “treating him like a human being.”
McGuire told the paper, “I remember thinking, oh my gosh. If this kid thinks what we’re doing – which is what we should be doing – makes him human, then we still have a long way to go.”
Well, McGuire’s latest venture is working to shorten that distance. AbleRoad is a new (and free) app that McGuire just launched that works to connect disabled people and their families and caregivers to the most accessible places in the country, rating public spaces for factors like handicapped accessibility and whether the staff is trained to assist people with disabilities.
Just as Senator Kennedy inspired McGuire at a pivotal moment in his life, we’re hoping McGuire’s story inspires a future generation to recognize when a little change is well needed. What’s something or someone that’s inspired you to make a positive change in your life?