Jack Prial, 55, was advocate for people with disabilities

October 15, 1994|By Dewitt Bliss | Dewitt Bliss,Sun Staff Writer

Jack Prial, a quadriplegic who was an advocate for people with disabilities, died Oct. 7 of cancer at his Northeast Baltimore home. He was 55.

Mr. Prial, who was paralyzed as the result of an automobile accident, retired in August as a client advocate at the state Department of Education's Maryland Rehabilitation Center on Argonne Drive in Baltimore. He had begun working there as an assistant librarian in 1975.

At the center, he compiled one of the most extensive collections of print and video materials on disability issues in Maryland.

In a letter to colleagues at the center shortly before he died, he said, "Folks who I touched and who touched me made the work so beautiful."

"Jack not only entered the mainstream but fundamentally altered it," said Patrick McKenna, director of client services for the state Division of Rehabilitation Services. "He was on the front lines in efforts to make independent living something more than a slogan. He helped make public transportation accessible. He aggressively promoted changes in the system to assure equal opportunity for persons with disabilities. He endlessly took the risks others would rarely embrace."

Mr. Prial was on the board of the Maryland Center for Independent Living, originally the Baltimore Citizens for Housing for the Disabled, which he helped start. He was also a member of the Mass Transit Administration's Mobility Advisory Committee and other advocacy groups for people with disabilities.

In 1987, he was a complainant before a Maryland Human Relations Commission hearing examiner who ruled that the MTA discriminated against the handicapped by providing them spotty and irregular service with improperly equipped buses and an insufficient van and taxi service.

He contributed articles to local and national publications.

His work brought him awards from several organizations, including the President's Committee on Employment of Persons With Disabilities and the National Rehabilitation Association.

The Elkton native was educated at West Nottingham Academy and was a graduate of the University of Maryland, where he was editor of the student newspaper, The Diamondback.

A memorial service was set for 2 p.m. today at the Maryland Rehabilitation Center, 2301 Argonne Drive.

He is survived by his wife, the former Novena Leone; a son, Stephen Prial of Glen Allen, Va.; a daughter, Judith L. Prial-Lansi of Trenton, N.J.; a stepson, Eduardo Leone of Baltimore; his mother, Ruth Prial of Elkton; and a sister, Mary Louise Hart of Kirkwood, Mo.

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