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Paul K. Longmore, advocate for disabled, dies at 64

Unable to use his hands because of a childhood bout with polio, Paul K. Longmore wrote his first book by punching a keyboard with a pen he held in his mouth. It took him 10 years, and when he was done, he burned a copy in front of the Federal Building in Los Angeles.

By taking a match to "The Invention of George Washington" in 1988, the scholar brought national attention to a campaign to reform Social Security policies that discourage disabled professionals from working.

Some of the most restrictive penalties were soon lifted - including one preventing him from earning royalties on books - in a policy change that became known as the Longmore Amendment.

Longmore, a leading disability scholar and activist who taught at San Francisco State, died Aug. 9 of natural causes at his San Francisco home, said his sister, Ellen Brown. He was 64.

"He devoted his life to making this a better and more just world," Robert A. Corrigan, the university's president, said in a statement.

As a major founder of disability studies, Longmore helped establish it as a field of academic research and teaching.

In 1996, he helped start San Francisco State's Institute for Disability Studies and was its director. Longmore worked to bring the discipline to other college campuses and provided leadership at disability rights rallies across the state and nation.

He also wrote some of the first academic and historical articles about how disabled people have been depicted in popular culture.

In his 2003 book, "Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability," he challenged popular views of assisted suicide, which he had campaigned against legalizing in California, and highlighted the relatively unknown history of the disability rights movement during the Depression.

Last month, Longmore spoke at a San Francisco celebration of the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act and reminded the crowd of a perspective he had long espoused: Disability rights activists had brought about change by redefining what it means to be disabled.

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