Together with her husband Leonard, who enjoyed television writing, Isabelle Goldenson co-founded United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) which became the third largest health organization in the U.S., with more than 100 affiliations across the country. Her mission became the mission of UCP: to provide health care, education, employment, housing and technology resources, allowing people with cerebral palsy to lead independent and productive lives.
Leonard and Isabelle Goldenson, initiated, lobbied and led a movement in 1973 to amend the Rehabilitation Act, Section 504. Section 504 is the groundbreaking predecessor by seventeen years to the better known Americans with Disabilities Act. For the first time in our country, Section 504 prohibited discrimination on the basis of disability.
It was during those heady years when everything was possible after the first moon landing, Loreen Arbus recalls her mother angrily bristling, “If we can propel rocket-ships to the moon, why can’t we use some of that same technology to help the disabled move more easily on earth?” Shortly thereafter, Isabelle organized and, with Leonard, hosted an unprecedented meeting at California’s Ames Research Center with NASA scientists and engineers, participants from the National Institute of Health and the Veteran’s Administration, medical professionals and academics, to find practical applications of space technology for the disabled.
Isabelle’s inspiration and perseverance resulted in the development of a light-weight wheelchair, multi-directional conveyances which can climb stairs, remote control “space garments” to move the limbs, sensory devices to help the blind, amongst many other breakthroughs.