Ina Marilyn White, 69, of Union died July 1, 2018. Born in Newark, she lived her early life in Elizabeth and moved to Springfield at age 12, moving to Union in 2017.
A pioneer in advocacy for accessibility, Ms. White, who used a wheelchair throughout her life due to paraplegia from a spinal cord injury, learned to drive using hand controls as a teenager. By her 20s she was driving herself to school, work, and activities in a van outfitted with a wheelchair lift.
She became involved in the early 1970s with Disabled in Action, an organization committed to ending discrimination against people with disabilities through self-advocacy. She served in numerous positions, including as president of the New Jersey chapter. From 1981 until her death, she served as community outreach coordinator at The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities at Rutgers Medical School.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and an M.A. in speech correction from Kean University. She started her career as a claims representative with the Social Security Administration.
She lent her expertise serving on many boards and committees, including the NJ Transit ADA Task Force, the Cultural Access Network Project, the State Special Education Advisory Council, and the NJ Coalition for the Advancement of Rehabilitation Technology. For 10 years she was chairperson of the Barrier-Free Subcode Committee of the NJ Construction Code Advisory Board. She was a member of the Union County Advisory Board on the Disabled for over 37 years and helped to establish the Union County Office for the Disabled. She worked with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia on the Americans with Disabilities Act legislation and, sponsored by Rutgers University, taught self-advocacy skills to people with disabilities and their parents. She conducted numerous training sessions on the ADA, assistive technology, and barrier-free design, and was an adjunct instructor in special education at Kean and assistive technology at New Jersey Institute of Technology.
For over 30 years, she led a weekly evening social group for adults with developmental disabilities. She influenced many of the Kean students she recruited and mentored as volunteers, some who changed their majors to special education after their volunteer experience.
A lover of theater, she enjoyed working with theaters on expanding access for all audiences. She was a founding member of the Cultural Access Network Project and a member of the Paper Mill Playhouse Access Advisory Committee. She led disability awareness training for theater staff at the Paper Mill, George Street Playhouse, and other theaters, and helped to facilitate a traveling puppet show, “Kids on the Block,” about children with disabilities.
She was an active member of her synagogue, Temple Sha’arey Shalom in Springfield, and often spoke to classes and community groups.
She was recognized on numerous occasions for her advocacy efforts, including awards from the Community Health Law Project, the NJ Commission on Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities, the Union County Human Rights Commission, and Kean, which awarded her its Distinguished Graduate Alumna Award. She was named to the Hall of Fame of her high school, Jonathan Dayton Regional High School.
She is survived by two sisters, Loretta White (aka Cayelin Halley) of California and Susan Haag of Silver Spring, Md.; two nieces, Rose Haag and Elsa Haag; and a grand-niece.
Services were held July 3 with arrangements by Menorah Chapels at Millburn, Union. Memorial contributions may be made to Temple Sha’arey Shalom Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund.