Ann Forts: Joy, Enthusiasm, Inclusion, Justice
With a heavy heart this morning, I learned of last night’s passing of Ann Forts, one of the leading self advocate voices of the Down Syndrome community and a Massachusetts neighbor. Ann was a wonderful person with whom to work. She and her family worked every day to advocate for the ordinary for people with disabilities:
• the right to live in the community,
• the opportunity to have a job,
• the joy of having friends,
• the belief of dignity of every person and
• the potential to change the world in a positive way.
I first met Ann when she was appointed by President Bill Clinton to be the first self advocate to serve on the President’s Committee on MR, now known as the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. I was fortunate to the Committee’s Executive Director.
Ann was a force for good and enlightenment. She refused to let others set boundaries or limitations for her or others with Down Syndrome, and she lived to let others know that people with disabilities also have abilities that enables them to live life to the fullest.
To further illustrate her point, Ann established a movement and fund raising effort she labeled “The Up Syndrome Fund”, rejecting the notion that the name of the medical professional associated with Down Syndrome name revealed anything about the potential of people with disability. The “Up Syndrome Fund” supports self advocate activities.
As a member of PCMR, she inspired her fellow members and even the President of the United States. In a speech, President Clinton gave shortly after meeting Ann, he remarked on her positive attitude, her zest for life and publicly suggested that Ann’s UP campaign might have a lesson within it for Members of Congress. The next day, after the President cited Ann, she was invited to appear on NBC’s TODAY SHOW and discussed her work for inclusion with the members of PCMR, including John F. Kennedy, Jr., with whom Ann had formed a special friendship.
Ann was active in many areas including:
• Director for the National Down Syndrome Congress
• Director for the NH Chapter of American Association on Mental Retardation
• Director for the Direct Support Professionals Association of NH
• 3 Terms on NH Development Disabilities Council
• 1994-2000 President’s Committee on Mental Retardation
Ann will live on in the memories of those who knew and loved her including her siblings, their children and her incredible parents, Bernie and Shirley Forts of New Hampshire.
Ann’s story is similar to the amazing achievements of so many others who live with disabilities in the community. May her memory be for a blessing.
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