NCIL Mourns the Loss of Deidre Davis Butler

August 16, 2020

NCIL Mourns the Loss of Deidre Davis Butler

It is with a heavy heart that we inform you of the passing of Deidre Davis Butler, a national and international disability rights leader. Deidre passed away on Saturday, August 8, 2020.

Deidre was an attorney and long-time disability rights advocate. She was a staunch advocate who worked to promote legislative and social change for disabled people. Over her four-decade-long career she helped craft, implement and enforce laws including the Air Carrier Access Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Cliff Perez, NCIL’s Vice President, was a long-time friend of Deidre. Cliff said, “I first met Deidre when I attended the ADA Train-the-Trainer sponsored by the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Deidre was a trainer in the early days implementing the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). We became good friends. I remember her telling me about how she used to play tennis while heading to the Lincoln Memorial in the middle of the night. She also used to talk about how difficult things were for her as a Black disabled woman, especially before the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. She was always looking to see how things could be improved and how to ensure greater access.”

Deidre served in various roles that allowed her to fight for disability rights and independent living. Over her long career she served as the Deputy Director of DIAL CIL in New Jersey; Director of the Union County Office of Disability in New Jersey; Director of ADA Training at the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC); Deputy Assistant Secretary for EEOC at the US Department of State; and was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the White House Office of Presidential Personnel.

She also served as Chief of the Independent Living Program at the US Department of Education, and during her tenure the Center for Independent Living (CIL) indicators were developed, consumer control became the standard, and diversity in race and disability on the peer review teams was achieved. In 2005, Deidre began working for Wal-Mart as their first Director of ADA Services where she was responsible for ensuring compliance with the ADA. After retiring in 2012, Deidre founded Disability Dynamics, a disability diversity consultant company.

Deidre traveled around the world training on the ADA, independent living, and disability rights. She served on numerous boards, including – but not limited to – Sources for Community Living, the Howard University Center on Minorities with Disabilities, the National Black Disability Coalition, Sources Center for Independent Living, and the National Council on Independent Living. She has received many awards, including most recently NCIL’s Max Starkloff Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2020 Annual Conference. She has been recognized by President George H.W. Bush and President Barack Obama.

The disability community has lost an incredible friend and advocate. In her speech at this year’s conference, Deidre said that from the first NCIL conference she attended in the 80’s, she knew she had found her people. She said that from that point on, “NCIL has been in me and with me.” There is no question that Deidre will always be with us. And as a past member of NCIL’s board, her picture will be added to the Wall of Fame in NCIL’s office.

Our most sincere condolences go out to Deidre’s family and friends during this difficult time.