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Harold L. Willson papers, 1949-1994 (bulk 1960-1980).
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Harold L. Willson papers, 1949-1994 (bulk 1960-1980)
Harold Willson papers


Willson, Harold L., 1926-1994, creator


The Harold L. Willson papers document Willson's unstinting efforts to make public transportation accessible for people at all mobility levels. Willson's primary legacy is the removal of architectural barriers on Bay Area public transportation; copious correspondence with BART officials, as well as with members of local, state, and federal government, documents his efforts in that direction. Willson's work towards making BART and bus systems accessible is also represented by reports, memoranda, printed matter, clippings, and Willson's own writings. While Willson's efforts were mostly as a free agent, he also participated in the Easter Seal Society -- primarily the Alameda and Contra Costa County branches -- to further his aims, and these collaborative efforts are shown through correspondence, minutes, and memoranda. Willson's involvement with a wide variety of other orgaizations, local and national, related to disability and accessibility issues, appears in correspondence, reports, and other materials, as well as in correspondence and program materials from the many conferences he attended. Willson'swritings, extant in draft and published form, proved eloquent arguments and specific recommendations for transportation accessibility. While the collection contains little personal material, a small number of clippings and letters document the mining accidet that injured Willson, as well as his treatment at the Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center; Willson's curricula vitae also include short autobiographical sketches.


1960 (issued)


Willson, Harold L -- 1926-1994 -- Archives
San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (Calif.)
Kaiser Foundation. -- Rehabilitation Center.
Local transit -- Barrier-free design
People with disabilities -- Transportation -- California -- San Francisco Bay Area


COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE: Advance notice required for use.
Harold L. Willson papers, BANC MSS 2000/45 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
In English.
Harold L. Willson was born May 13, 1926, in Oak Hill, West Virginia. After his father passed away in 1946, Willson took a job as a coal miner in order to pay for his college education. On February 14, 1948, Willson was struck by a slate fall, breaking his back. Four months later, Willson was transported by train across the country, for treatment at the Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center in Vallejo, California. During his two years at the facility, he underwent multiple surgeries and extensive physical therapy. He also met Patricia Leister, a member of the nursing staff, and the couple married in 1950. That same year, Willson obtained employment at the Bank of America, and in 1952 began a degree in Business Administration at Golden Gate College, which he completed in 1956. In 1957, Willson joined the Kaiser Foundation Medical Care program as an accountant; he would stay with Kaiser in various positions until his retirement in 1977. In 1964, Willson became a Volunteer Consultant to the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Board of Directors, with the goal of removing architectural barriers in order to make 100% ridership possible on the BART system. Through years of effort, Willson became a major force in altering the initial project designs, and gaining additional funding from the state legislature, to ensure that BART trains and stations would be open to users of all ability levels. Willson's work was rewarded by the creation of the first tranist system in the country to be fully accessible to the disabled. After his successful transformation of BART, Willson trurned his attention to Bay Area bus service, realizing that BART's usefulness would be limited if disabled useres were unable to travel to and from teh stations via public transit. Willson's efforts resulted in the installation of wheelchair lifts on local buses. Willson's work on public transportaiton accessiblility garnered national and even international attention. He received frequent requests for information from others interested in improving transit accessibility, testified at regional and national heartings on transportation issues, and was in 1975 the subject of a German documentary. Harold Willson died in 1994.
Forms part of the Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement collection.

Physical Description:

4 cartons, 1 box, 2 oversize folders (5.3 linear feet)





Copyright Note:

COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE: Advance notice required for use.