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Diane Lipton, an attorney who won nationwide rights for children with disabilities, died Aug. 8 after a two-year battle with cancer. She was 57. Lipton, who lived in Richmond, was a senior attorney and director of the advocacy program for children with disabilities at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund Inc. Her colleagues remember her as a tireless worker who was “beloved by her clients and bonded with them,” according to Linda Kilb, a senior attorney at DREDF who worked closely with Lipton. “She listened to them and understood them on a human level. She knew the law intimately and was directly involved in shaping and interpreting [disability rights] laws in landmark legal cases. She was everything you could hope for in a legal champion,” Kilb said. Lipton’s passion for the civil rights of people with disabilities began with the birth of her daughter Chloe, who has cerebral palsy. In 1979, Chloe was denied access to schools in Richmond because of her disability. The situation spurred Lipton to action, as she saw disability-segregation as “extremely detrimental to the growth and development of disabled and non-disabled children,” according to a letter she wrote to the school district. Lipton began organizing parents in Richmond and successfully closed all disability-segregated schools in the area. The fight continued to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in 1994, and Lipton was victorious in Sacramento City Unified School District v. Rachel H., 14 F.3d. 1398, a case that led to integration of children with disabilities in public schools nationwide. She was also a key analyst of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), representing parents nationally and advising members of Congress. Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts called Lipton a “hero” and “a woman who fought valiantly not only for her own child with cerebral palsy, but for all children across the nation,” according to a statement published by the disability-rights group, Justice for All. She received her law degree from Golden Gate University School of Law and received numerous awards including two American Jurisprudence Awards and the Distinguished Parent Award from the Association for Severely Handicapped. She is survived by her husband, James Armstrong, and by daughters Daria Armstrong and Chloe Lipton. A public memorial service will be held later this year.

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