On January 25, 2016, Charles Hart, one of the original founders of CCMR, Inc. (Formerly, The Hogan/Berry Parents Association) passed away and ended 50 years of advocacy for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD) and their families.
Charles Harts’ entry in to advocacy began when his first son Christopher was born in 1964. Christopher was born with hydrocephalus a condition which caused him to endure several head surgeries in the first years of his life to alleviate the pressure of fluid building up on his brain. Because of this condition, Christopher was diagnosed as being profoundly “mentally retarded” and would never function at a level of more than 12-18 months and not expected to live more than 3-5 years.
Christopher, however, did live well beyond expectations of the doctors. When Christopher became school age, Charles’ advocacy began as an effort to obtain an education for his son. Because of his cognitive level Christopher was denied access to public education by the then Superintendent of Schools of Melrose MA. Charles realized that this was a violation of Christopher’s rights took his fight to the Attorney General and Governor of Massachusetts. Charles’ argument was simple - if a city or town provides education to its “normal” school age children then it must provide an education to its “intellectually and physically disabled” children as well to deny education based on a disability would be in violation of their human rights. The City of Melrose argued that they were not denying Christopher an education, they city did not have a classroom and teacher for Christopher.
Through his efforts and relentless advocacy Charles won the fight to obtain an education for Christopher; subsequently a new classroom was established for him and a teacher was hired. Mr. Hart along with the Attorney General of MA changed the Special Education laws in MA making it a law that all cities and towns are responsible providing education or the resources to all school age children who live there. If the city cannot provide the education and resources to meet the child’s needs then the school district is responsible for providing it even if the resources are outside the school district.
Through out his tenure with CCMR, Mr. Hart advocated not only for his son, but for all individuals with ID/DD in Massachusetts. His advocacy included state budget increases, guardianship laws, prevention of abuse and neglect, the Disabled Persons Protection Commission, access to services and very simply basic human rights.
In the early 90’s Charles and CCMR joined VOR, a federal advocacy group originally made up of family advocacy associations like CCMR. Mr. Hart acknowledged that services for MA individuals were reimbursed by the Federal government to the level of at least fifty cents on the dollar. Therefor, joining VOR was critical to the people he advocated for.
Charles Hart will be missed by many family, friends, fellow advocates and even those who he battled against came to respect him as a fierce advocate for the intellectually and developmentally disabled. But his spirt will not fade. CCMR, Inc. which was incorporated in 1976 still advocates for people with ID/DD in 2016 under the leadership of Charles’ son David Hart.