Northwest Center is an organization that focuses on what people can do, not what they can’t.

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FIFTY years ago, the prospects for a child born with developmental disabilities were stark — a life of isolation, no education and, more than likely, institutionalization.

But a plucky group of Seattle parents spurred a civil rights movement after their children were turned away at the schoolhouse door because of their disabilities. These parents spawned a revolution that demanded and won opportunities in education, the community and the workplace.

The founders of Northwest Center started with a private school that included their children and their typically developing peers. The results were impressive — everyone learned — and helped build the case for an education revolution.

Celebrating 50 years

Northwest Centers is collecting 50 stories:

Northwest Center parents, including Cecile Lindquist, Janet Taggart, Evelyn Chapman and the late Katie Dolan, began agitating for state law to require public schools to educate children with disabilities.

Gov. Dan Evans, who will be among those honored at Tuesday’s Golden Hearts luncheon, signed Washington’s Education for All Act in 1971. Four years later, Congress enacted a similarly named law.

As the first generation of children who inspired their parents and teachers grew up, Northwest Center expanded its mission to provide job training and employment opportunities, within the center and at a network of employers throughout our community.

Northwest Center is sharing 50 stories of those who pushed for change and those who are thriving because of their opportunities on its website.

Yet, there is still more to do, and Northwest Center is in full revolution-fomenting mode. The agency is asking people to sign its 50th Anniversary Pledge to focus on what people can do, not what they can’t, and to open the door a little wider to create opportunities for people with disabilities at work.

Happy 50th anniversary, Northwest Center. Keep on agitating.