Justin Whitlock Dart, Jr. (August 29, 1930 – June 22, 2002) was an American activist and advocate for people with disabilities. He helped to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and co-founded the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).
Dart contracted polio in 1948 before entering the University of Houston, where he earned undergraduate degrees in history and education in 1954; however, the university refused to give him a teaching certificate because of his disability. The university is now home to the Justin Dart, Jr. Center for Students with Disabilities, a facility designed for students who have any type of temporary or permanent health impairment, physical limitation, psychiatric disorder, or learning disability.
During his time at the University of Houston, which was then segregated, Dart organized the first student group to oppose racism.
After graduating, Dart was a successful entrepreneur who founded three Japanese corporations, but in 1967 he gave up the corporate life to devote himself to the rights of people with disabilities, working in Texas and Washington, D.C. as a member of various state and federal disability commissions.
He opposed the efforts of President Ronald Reagan, a personal friend of the Dart family, to revise the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. In 1993, he quit his position on the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, on which he had worked tirelessly since being nominated to the position by President George H. W. Bush in 1989. While on the Committee, he worked to help pass the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which then-President Bush signed into law.
Subsequently, Dart founded ‘Justice for All’ with other activists to defend against congressional attempts to weaken the ADA, including those pushed for by Clint Eastwood. He also organized numerous ADA anniversary events.
Activist Ric Edwards describes his experience of meeting and working with Justin Dart on a YouTube video: Ric Edwards – Part 1