As we vow to do our best to kick as many asses as thoroughly as Carrie did.
The world has lost a fierce advocate, brilliant lawyer, and talented photographer. Carrie Ann Lucas, a disability rights attorney who pioneered representation for parents with disabilities, died from complications from septic shock. She was 47 years old.
CREEC recognized Carrie in 2016 for her work in intersectional civil rights, celebrating her outstanding leadership in disability rights, parents’ rights, LGBTQI rights, human dignity, and faith.
CREEC’s Co-Executive Directors first worked with Carrie not long after they started their small civil rights law firm in 1996, when she asked us to challenge her graduate program at the Iliff School of Theology for their failure to provide access and effective communication. While she was working on her Masters of Divinity there, she worked with others to protest institutional racism on the faculty and in the library. This was not her first protest: early on, she protested her high school’s refusal to permit a disabled student to march with the band.
After getting her M. Div., she worked at the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, got her law degree at the University of Denver (on the full-ride Chancellor’s Scholarship), got a prestigious Equal Justice Works fellowship, and founded Disabled Parent Rights, a non-profit devoted to ensuring that people with disabilities have equal rights in parenting. She also became a national expert and trainer on the rights of parents with disabilities and, through her legal advocacy, secured decisions upholding and promoting those rights here in Colorado. Most recently she was recruited by the Colorado Office of Respondent Parents Counsel to help set up a program to train other lawyers around the state to replicate the sort of impact she was making.
During all of this time, she also acted as the plaintiff in a number of ground-breaking disability rights lawsuits, including one of the largest public accommodations class actions and others bringing equal access to a variety of different facilities.
Throughout her life, Carrie taught, protested, litigated, wrote, and advocated for a broad understanding of civil rights and human dignity, and consistently brought an intersectional approach to her work: bringing the parental perspective to disability rights, and vice versa; insisting on disability rights in civil rights spaces; and the importance of voices of color and LGBTQI people in disability rights spaces. Carrie may have been the only wheelchair-using Latina with a bumper sticker reading “just another disabled lesbian for Christ,” dressed in camo, driving her trak-chair into the wilderness in search of the perfect photo.
While the immediate cause of death was septic shock, Carrie was in fact the victim of our healthcare system and the brutal cost containment procedures of her insurance company, UnitedHealthcare. Carrie had a severe neuromuscular disease, a rare form of muscular dystrophy. She relied on a power wheelchair, and had used a ventilator for years. In January of 2018, she got a cold which turned into a lung infection. UnitedHealthcare refused to pay for the specific inhaled antibiotic that she needed, instead forcing her to take a less effective drug, to which she experienced a severe reaction. This created a cascade of problems and loss of function (including her speech). United Healthcare’s attempt to save $2,000 ultimately cost over $1 million in health care costs over the past year.
We are very grateful for all Carrie has taught us about disability rights and intersectionality, and for being a brilliant and hilarious colleague and friend. We will miss her very much.
[CCDC has posted a more detailed obituary, from which I have plagiarized liberally.]