David Kelly, the man who disabled people can call when there is an issue in the Lake Tahoe area — one that could be an infringement of the Americans with Disabilities Act — was recently recognized for his efforts.
Kelly was selected by the California Department of Rehabilitation for its “Notable 50 People” for the week of Sept. 11-17. He was recognized, according to a DOR news release, for his contributions in the construction of Tahoe Senior Plaza and Kelly Ridge, which provide low and affordable housing for senior citizens, and Sky Forest Acres fully accessible apartment complex. Kelly Ridge was named after him.
His relentless commitment to helping people with disabilities that also earned him a spot on the list, the news release stated.
“People usually call me when they think something isn’t in compliance with the ADA,” Kelly said. “The ADA was never intended to make special treatment for people with disabilities. It was made so we could be part of society, do those things like anyone else.”
The more than 30-year resident of South Lake Tahoe also is the president of Tahoe Coordinating Council for the Disabled board of directors and has been a board member of various other organizations such as the California Developmental Disabilities Area Board III, the news release stated.
Having suffered from symptoms of polio and a litany of other diseases, such as bladder cancer and diabetes, since he was 6 years old, Kelly has defied diagnosis and prognosis, given life expectancies well short of his 70th birthday.
His right arm has been paralyzed since infancy, he can’t move his left arm very high and one of his legs is mostly paralyzed. Kelly is on oxygen tanks and said he has chronic pains and walking more than 100 yards fatigues him.
And there’s much more, brought on by “either polio or old age,” Kelly said. “I don’t know.”
He solicited funding for the venues various times even when federal and state organizations weren’t allocating money due to poor economic times, Kelly said, mostly through Section 8 affordable and low-income housing funds.
Kelly aims to help people by doing it “the right way, and cause as little to no more grief than needed,” he said. In addition to his accomplishments, Kelly said he wants to establish a transitional home for disabled people and continue his work making the area more accessible for the disabled.
“I just started helping; I just thought it was the right thing to do,” Kelly said, adding it’s probably volunteer work that keeps him going through all his ailments. “It makes me feel good. I didn’t want anything. I never ask for money or anything; although I do ask once a year in October people come and support Tahoe Area Coordinating Council for the Disabled.”
October is federally recognized as National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Since Kelly moved to the Lake Tahoe Area in the 1980s, he has worked with people with polio and various disabilities.
“At that time, I was trying to help people with polio in the area because there’s a lot of struggles (with the disease),” Kelly said.
Despite a lifetime of medical issues, he’s given back much of the time doctors didn’t expect him to have by aiding and volunteering being a voice for disabled people. He also raised two sons with his wife of 35 years, Coco.
He said he thanks his wife and local TACCD Board Secretary John Pillsbury for their support throughout the years.
Kelly said his top three accomplishments are: first, being named to the DOR Notable 50 People; second, being named a South Lake Tahoe Fire Department honorary firefighter; and third, being honorary mayor with no authority.
Although disabled people need a little more assistance here and there, they want to work — hard. He said sometimes it’s hard to get disabled employees to stop working because they know they can do what many people may think they can’t.
“There’s nothing greater for someone with disabilities to get their first paycheck,” Kelly said. “You’ve just accomplished something your family, society, never thought you’d be able to do. I’m not trying to impress anyone with what I’m doing; I’m trying to impress myself.”
Visit www.tahoeareacoordinatingcouncilforthedisabled.com for more information about the organization and services for disabled people in the area.