Originally published from New York Newsday

Disability rights activist Frieda Zames dies


June 17, 2005, 6:05 PM EDT

Frieda Zames, a disability rights activist who worked closely with the city to improve services for the disabled, died at her Manhattan home Friday. She was 72.

She was recovering from an appendectomy two weeks ago, said her sister, Doris Zames Fleischer of Brooklyn.

Zames came to the movement in the 1970s, during efforts to implement Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which barred federally funded programs from discriminating against the disabled, Fleischer said.

Zames, a former professor of mathematics at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, spent her time outside of the classroom attending conferences, giving lectures and writing on the rights of the disabled.

She co-authored a 2001 book, "The Disability Rights Movement From Charity to Confrontation," with Fleischer.

At her death, she was first vice president of Disabilities in Action of Metropolitan New York and was helping to draft a City Council bill to make taxi cabs and privately run ferries wheelchair accessible, a colleague, Jean Ryan, said.

Zames contracted polio when she was 2 and a half years old. The effects left her unable to walk without crutches and braces, Fleischer said. In her last years, she exchanged the braces and crutches for a motorized scooter.

"Given the fact that she had been given such a hard deal in life, she always found that which was positive," said Fleischer, a professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. "In any experience, she found the positive thing and ran with that."

Zames was born in Brooklyn in 1932. She received a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Brooklyn College and a doctorate from New York University.

A memorial service is planned for Sunday at Riverside Memorial Chapel in Manhattan.

In addition to her sister, Zames is survived by her partner of 34 years, Michael Imperiale, of Manhattan; brother-in-law, Leonard Fleischer; niece Abby Fleischer; and nephew Joseph Fleischer of Brooklyn.

Copyright 2005, Newsday, Inc.