Widely known and beloved Bay Area disability-rights activist Leslie Gordon died on March 11 at the age of 55.
A native of Los Angeles, Gordon was born with cerebral palsy. She broke barriers for people with disabilities from a young age, with the constant support of a large and loving family.
A lifelong wheelchair user, with speech and consequential motor challenges, Gordon’s search for knowledge, and what defined a life of meaning, was constant in her life.
Gordon earned her B.A. from UC Riverside, a degree in counseling from SFSU and an MA in Religious Studies from the Graduate Theological Union.
Leslie Gordon was a poet, an actor, and a protestor for the many causes she believed in, most recently in the Women’s March in Oakland on Jan. 21. She worked as a rehabilitation counselor for people with disabilities and as interim executive director for EZDoesIT, an emergency attendant care agency.
Gordon was a decades-long resident of Berkeley, having moved across the Bay from San Francisco in 1982. Many of the organizations she worked for are Berkeley-based.
Gordon spent her early childhood in Sherman Oaks where her parents moved when they learned she would have the best educational opportunities. She spent many summer vacations on Catalina Island where her grandparents had a home. Later she moved to a specialized residential facility, Angel View, in Desert Springs, CA. While the facility was austere in many respects, Leslie was encouraged to live as independently as possible and her leadership qualities were fostered. Recognizing her extraordinary talents, many teachers befriended and mentored Leslie on into her high school years at Palm Springs High School where she was the first mainstreamed wheelchair student. Leslie traveled as much as she was able, the most adventurous was a two-week trip to Israel.
In the mid-1980s, Gordon participated in a demonstration at the Concord Naval Base protesting the shipment of arms to Central America. A row of wheelchair users successfully faced down the police cars when the police came to make arrests. Gordon also was a frontline activist in the fight to get the ADA passed and the California law (504) enacted which provided full access to public transportation for those with disabilities. This included the installation of let-downs on public buses. Leslie was very proud of the work she — working with, and as part of, the disabled community — accomplished.
The daughter of Robert and the late Joanna Gordon, Leslie also leaves her brothers Bruce (Tami) and Michael (Lauri), nieces and nephews, all of Los Angeles and her sister Julie Yanez (Juan) of Long Beach, her cherished cat Goofy and her valued and devoted care attendants Ingrid, Joy, Tonita, Sarah, Roxanne, Joylene, Mekayla and Gabrielle.
Donations would be welcomed to the charity of your choice.