Engracia Figueroa, a long-term activist serving the disabled, died on Sunday.
According to the non-profit organization Hand in Hand, 51-year-old Figueroa has skin ulcers and gastrointestinal problems, and she is a member of the organization. Two weeks ago, Ngracia was admitted to the intensive care unit.
Figueroa’s companion activist and friend Madeleine Reis told USA Today that until the last moment of her life, Figueroa was “considering how to put the rights of persons with disabilities first.”
Reis said that she recently worked with Figueroa to prepare a campaign to promote awareness of airline damage to wheelchairs. Figueroa, who uses a wheelchair, boarded a United Airlines flight on July 14 and found that her wheelchair was damaged after landing.
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"It's like my worst nightmare has come true. My wheelchair is customized for me and my spinal cord injury. This is a $30,000 machine that is not easy to replace. Without it, I can only stay now. At home," Figueroa said in a press release at the time.
Although United Airlines did provide Figueroa with a new wheelchair, Reiss said that Figueroa has been sitting in a borrowed wheelchair for several months.
"We are sad to hear about the death of Ms. Figueroa, and we express our condolences to her friends and family," United Airlines said in a statement to USA Today.
After being hospitalized, Reis said Figueroa was “fear and exhausted” because most of the activists fighting for their rights are like this.
"She is a bit exhausted because she has to be like many disabled activists who are advocating for their rights and needs, so she is just tired but keeps fighting," Reis said.
In her work and meetings, Figueroa emphasized the danger of damaging the wheelchair. She said that if the wheelchair is damaged, the person will be "disabled again."
Figueroa is a member of the Hand in Hand California chapter and the chair of the Actively Living Independent and Free Community Committee of the Los Angeles Independent Living Center. Hand in hand and call her a "happy, fierce, and creative leader."
Other activists such as Hand in Hand and Reis hope to continue Figueroa's efforts and enthusiasm.
"I will tell people to continue fighting against people with disabilities and understand the importance of the rights of people with disabilities. A wheelchair is an extension of someone's body, and the lives of people with disabilities like her are also important," Reis said.
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