Evelyne Villines: Activist for People with Disabilities

Evalyne Jobe Villines was born on February 11, 1930, in Siam, Iowa. Villines at the age of three her leg became paralyzed with the poliovirus. This did not deter her from pursuing her ambitions, as a matter of fact, it made her more passionate about people with disabilities. Villines became the voice for the voiceless and for decades was in the forefront in advocating for the rights of people with disabilities.

Villines who passed on this Saturday at Mercy Hospice Hospital in Johnston has left an indelible mark as an activist. Villines has helped thousands of people living with disabilities in the US find meaningful work and has served on several commissions, offered advisory to many politicians and has made speeches in public rallies and conferences throughout the US and as far as Rome. One memorable moment that she will be mostly remembered for was during the signing of the Disabilities Act in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush. Villines was invited as a guest to witness the signing, and when she was given a chance to talk to the audience, she gave a very powerful statement saying the disabled are not seeking favors but are demanding what is rightful theirs.

Villines went through a lot of difficulties during her childhood. She got the polio virus in the 1930s at a time when the virus was so prevalent among children throughout the country. At the tender age of 9, she was institutionalized at a Crippled Children Hospital Iowa for seven years. Villines recalls all the humiliations she and other disabled children would go through while at the institution. They would be required to take off all their clothes when being paraded in front of Iowa University medical students who were studying about disabled people by watching their mobility. Besides according to Villines people do treat the disabled as people who do not have a mouth and can’t speak for themselves. She experienced this a lot while she was an adult where instead of people directly ask her questions they preferred to talk to her companion something that frustrated her.

One organization that is saddened by her demise is SourceAmerica where Villines served as a board member for a very long time. Villines joined SourceAmerica organization when it was still small organization helped it grow to be one of the biggest employers of people with disabilities in America. Source America President and CEO Steve Soroka in a statement described Villines as a trailblazer for disability rights and a compassionate person who dedicated her entire life to creating and advocating for opportunities for the disabled.

Evelyne Villines: Activist for People with Disabilities