Charlie Carr

September 17, 2018 Sue Rorke

Appointed by Secretary Bigby in August 2007, Charles Carr was the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) until 2015. He has dedicated his career as an advocate of advancing independence for people with disabilities through his many roles – social, economic policies and programs, and now government.

Commissioner Carr, who was paralyzed in a diving accident at 14, started his advocacy for disability policies and programs early making him one of the Nation’s leaders in the independent living movement.

The interview below is provided by Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission where Charles Carr was the Commissioner (2010).

How did you get into this field?

  • I got into the field through necessity. I was institutionalized because there were no community services for people with disabilities, like independent living. So, the only way to get out of the institution was to work and start an independent living program. I got immediately involved in the independent living movement and in 1980 I started my own independent living center.

Who would you consider to be your mentor and why?

  • I have two people I consider my mentors: Fred Fay and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Fred Fay is from the community of people with disabilities. I met him when I needed to feel good about being a person with a disability and having a future beyond living in an institution — Fred helped me realize these. The other would be Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because he inspired me to discover that through collective action people united can make phenomenal change happen.

What quote do you live by?
There are two of them:

  • You must be the change you wish to see in the world. (Ghandi)
  • Treat others as you would like to be treated. (the Golden Rule)

What has been the most memorable moment of your career?

  • 1981, when three of Northeast Independent Living Program (NILP) staff, including myself, assisted the first four people to move into their own apartments in the community for their first time.

Can you share an interesting fact about yourself that your colleagues wouldn’t necessarily know?

  • I was valedictorian of my high school.

Is there anything you’d like people to know about your agency?

  • The people who work at MRC, no matter if they work front line or in administration roles, are not only some of the best and brightest, but also have strong commitments to their work and care deeply about the constituents we serve.

The Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement Oral History Project has more interviews with Charlie Carr about his experiences with his disability and the disability movement. Click Here