Remembering Martha Ziegler


“Martha’s advocacy work planted the seeds of a new generation of people with disabilities – those who had the benefits of education and civil rights. Martha leaves a lasting legacy of respect for all, access for all, and opportunity for all.”
– US Senator Tom Harkin, Iowa

Martha Ziegler, founder and former Executive Director (1974-1997) of the Federation for Children with Special Needs, has played a crucial role in creating the legislation and attitude changes that have considerably enhanced the opportunity for all children with disabilities to live a full life. She developed a model which helped establish parent organizations across the country. As the director of the US Dept of Education’s national parent program, she provided technical assistance to develop similar centers in all of the states, and was among the most respected parent leaders in the country.

In her efforts to achieve quality educational opportunities first for her daughter Mary Ann, Martha furthered a movement that would begin to change forever the life possibilities for children with disabilities in the United States and around the world. At the heart of all of Martha’s advocacy is a vision of respect, dignity, love, and human rights for her daughter and all persons with disabilities. In her book “My Daughter, My Teacher: Mary Ann, Autistic in English and Spanish”, Martha Ziegler shares the experiences that have molded her prolific mark on the disability community.

Martha Ziegler stated, “We (someday will) have fuller understanding of the revolutionary progress the [special education] law has brought, first for thousands and thousands of children and families in Massachusetts but ultimately for millions of children and families across our nation.”

Martha passed from this life just past midnight on September 13, 2014. The Federation was her creation. She inspired the development of many similar organizations across the country. Her legacy is profound and will last into eternity.