Jean Ryan – Member of Community Board 10

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Ryan is a tireless advocate for thedisabled, both through her work with Community Board 10 and withthe Taxis For All Campaign. She recalls the moment back in the late1990s when she first felt compelled to engage in her brand ofcommunity activism. At work, when I needed to store my scooterovernight and my boss said, ‘If we do it for you we’d have to do itfor everyone,’ it turned me right into a disability activist,overnight, Ryan recalled. She admits to having previously beenunaware of the treatment disabled residents are forced to endure.I had no idea people acted that way towards people with adisability, she said. But there’s a lot of discrimination outthere.

PERSONAL: The ailment which makes it difficult for Ryan to walkcrept up slowly. I was getting numb feet and legs and I didn’tknow why, she said. I found it more difficult to walk. Then itbecame impossible to take the subway. I couldn’t get up the steps.Although she has never received a definitive diagnosis, shebelieves she is afflicted by spinal stenosis, a narrowing of thespinal column which is known to worsen over time. Whatever I have,I can’t walk well, she said, adding that the slow development ofher illness has led some to question its validity: People try toblame me and tell me I’m out of shape, she said. But no, I wasreally in shape. It’s not my fault I’m disabled. A black belt intae kwon do and an avid runner before her health problems forcedher to stop, Ryan has lived in Bay Ridge since 1972, originallymoving to New York City from Minnesota in 1968 for reasons sheattributes to the weather. She has been married for 41 years, andhas a son, a daughter, a stepdaughter and a four-year-oldgrandson.

PERSONAL ATTRIBUTE: Ryan says that it is her perseverance thathas allowed her to be a successful activist. You just have to keepyour goal in hand and no matter what, you’re going to do it, shesaid. Ryan cites last month’s decision by a U.S. District Courtthat the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission may only grantnew taxi medallions for wheelchair-accessible vehicles as a signthat her work and the work of her fellow disability-rightsactivists is paying off. But she cautions against celebrating justyet. That doesn’t mean everything is solved, Ryan said. We stillhave a lot to do. You can’t solve everything with a court decision.You still have to work together to make things work out. But it’s astart and it’s more than we’ve ever had.

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