Disabilities rights advocate Spooner remembered as ‘irreplaceable’

Paul Spooner, a longtime advocate for people with disabilities who had been active on Beacon Hill for decades, died unexpectedly Saturday, the organization he led announced. He was 67 years old.

Spooner worked as executive director of the MetroWest Center for Independent Living since the early 1990s and was a champion for the personal care attendant program, which helps people with disabilities live more independent lives. The center said Spooner was “especially focused on the Independent Living philosophy, where people with disabilities are the experts on their own needs,” and that he picked up on the power and importance of technology early on.

“Most people in the disability community have interacted with Paul, and even more have benefited from his advocacy for disability services and rights. Paul quickly switched from in-person to zoom when COVID-19 hit and stayed just as effective in fighting for legislative action,” the center said. “He fought for a seat at the tables where his astute vision, attention to detail and careful strategic ideas led to many successes in improving the lives of people with disabilities.”

Senate President Karen Spilka appointed Spooner to serve on the state’s new Commission on the Status of Persons with Disabilities and he was tapped as treasurer of that group. Chairwoman Rep. Denise Garlick announced Spooner’s passing to the commission Tuesday morning.

“Paul was instrumental in creating a vision for our Commission that would modernize accessibility rights in Massachusetts. He was driven, passionate, and strategic in his advocacy, where his voice impacted policy and programs that improved the lives of countless individuals with disabilities,” Garlick said.

The Boston Center for Independent Living said that Spooner’s fingerprints are on “too many bills, programs, civil rights complaints, and other advances for people with disabilities to count.”

“Paul Spooner passionately lived disability rights. It defined him and he helped define the cause,” the Boston center wrote. “He’s totally irreplaceable.”