IN MEMORIAM: PATRICIA DAWN MASON BEATTIE
May 14, 1936-February 2, 2010
by Charles S.P. Hodge

(Editor's Note: Pat Beattie's family is working on putting together a photographic history of her life to be shared at the memorial service, which is still in the planning stages as this issue goes to press. If anyone has any photos or video of Pat that they would like to share, please send them to Kirsten Weeks, kbjweeks@verizon.net. She will make every effort to return the materials to you, but requests that only copies be sent in order to protect your originals from accidental loss or damage.)

Past ACB treasurer Patricia M. "Pat" Beattie, 73, passed away on Feb. 2, 2010 at 2:15 a.m. at INOVA Alexandria Hospital. She passed peacefully with her daughter Kirsten and son-in-law Glenn beside her. Visitation was held Feb. 4, with a graveside service Feb. 5.

In addition to her daughter and son-in-law, she leaves behind two grandchildren (Isaac and Phyllis); four sisters; a host of other relatives; and many friends and colleagues who have worked with her to make this world a better place for those with low vision or who are blind.

I first met Pat at ACB's 19th annual national convention in 1980 held at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Ky. Even at first impression, she came across as a charismatic, high energy, committed advocate for blind and disabled people. I was immediately drawn to her. At that time, Pat was living in Toledo, Ohio, and working at the Toledo Society for the Handicapped as a peer counselor and outreach advocate for disabled adults.

Our paths intersected again in 1982, when Pat moved to northern Virginia to take a job with the Mid-Atlantic regional office of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). Her work for AFB was to serve as a resource and consultant to state agencies --both umbrella and categorical -- serving blind individuals and to membership organizations of blind people. She took to this new career assignment as though she had been made for it. While Pat did not hide her membership in ACB, in order to work effectively with all membership organizations of the blind, Pat did not trumpet her ACB loyalties. During her AFB days, Pat was highly effective to a degree that "The Braille Monitor" paid her a backhanded compliment by indicating that Pat Beattie had swooped down upon Richmond. She was so good at what she did that she made herself into the indispensable resource and expert on a wide range of blindness-related topics and issues.

In 1989, Pat left AFB and accepted a higher-paying job with the Rehabilitation Engineering Society of North America (RESNA). This new career turned out to be a very important development for ACB and blind people generally. Pat's new job at RESNA focused on environmental access issues for blind and disabled persons. As was her pattern in earlier jobs, Pat threw herself into the minutia of accessibility issues.

As either a RESNA representative or an ACB representative, Pat was appointed to a number of advisory subcommittees of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Pat's tireless work on ANSI's A117 subcommittee regarding braille and raised large print characters and numerals proved to be absolutely crucial on these signage matters for blind and low-vision people. Around the same time, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed and signed into law in late July of 1990. The ADA assigned the responsibility for developing accessibility guidelines under the new law to the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (the Access Board). The Access Board brought together an advisory committee to assist the board in promulgating the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). One of the most influential movers and shakers in shaping the ADAAG that we know today was Pat Beattie.

In 1993, after her victories in shaping and developing the ANSI signage standard and the ADAAG, Pat moved from RESNA to National Industries for the Blind (NIB) to assume a high-level management position as NIB's Director of Policy and Governmental Affairs. Pat was already familiar with the Javits-Wagner-O'Day law and the government procurement program which has recently become the Ability-1 program. In her new position at NIB she worked tirelessly, both publicly and behind the scenes, prodding NIB to take more progressive positions, especially with respect to payment of wages to its single-disability blind workers. She also championed an upward mobility program within NIB designed to permit blind workers the opportunity for training that would result in blind production workers advancing into responsible management jobs at NIB or its associated agencies.

Many of these victories for blind production workers came too slowly for some, but they did come, primarily because of Pat's prodding from within NIB's management team. Pat continued to work at NIB until her retirement in 2006, but because of her indispensable knowledge and expertise on so many blindness-related issues, she continued to work for NIB as a part-time consultant until late 2009 when her declining health made it impossible for her.

During her years at NIB, Pat continued and furthered her expertise on accessibility issues as she chaired ACB's Environmental Access Committee, and in this position Pat informed ACB's leadership and access policies and positions. Pat served as a member of ACB's board of directors from 1988 until 1995, and from 1995 until 2001 she served as ACB's national treasurer. Throughout the almost 30 years that I have known Pat, she has been steadfast and consistently strong. In all of her professional positions, she consistently did her homework, immersing herself in the minutia of the issue or subject matter before her. She made herself through study and hard work a well-informed expert to a point that when an advisory committee on which Pat was a member actually would meet, Pat would come well prepared, and she often would be listened to by others who were not as well prepared. Inevitably Pat's informed views would be generously sprinkled throughout the advisory committee's report and recommendations.

Pat was a bulldog who, once she sunk her teeth into a subject matter or issue, she just would not let go until the issue was resolved to her satisfaction. In the process, she would become recognized as the best informed expert on the matter. Particularly when asked, Pat was generous with her time, and she enjoyed mentoring ACB members. Just the other day, an ACB member asked me the width of detectable dome warning strips at intersections required under the ADAAG. I admitted that I was unsure of the answer to the question, but I thought that I would ask Pat, who would know the answer off the top of her head. Then I stopped in mid-sentence knowing that Pat, the accessibility oracle, was no longer with us to answer questions.

She was a gem of a bulldog, and she was our friend and advocacy colleague. She will be sorely missed. I feel confident in predicting that we will not see another woman with the political and leadership skills possessed by Pat Beattie during our lifetimes. She will be fondly remembered.

CAPTION: Pat Beattie talks about the Council of Citizens with Low Vision International during a session at the 2002 convention in Houston, Tex. (Photo copyright 2002 by Ken Nichols.)


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