Paraquad History

For 50 years, Paraquad has worked tirelessly to promote inclusion for people with disabilities in St. Louis and around the world. Here’s a look at some of the key dates that have shaped Paraquad and the Independent Living Movement.


Max Starkloff entered a nursing home after a debilitating car accident.


After beginning a search for services to help him move from a nursing home, Starkloff starts working on accessible housing. Paraquad is born.


Paraquad’s first grant is funded by Morton D. May. Access studies and consultations begin with area businesses.


First curb cuts completed in St. Louis.


The Rehab Act passes establishing the Rehabilitation Services Administration and Vocational Rehabilitation Services. Section 504 of the Rehab Act addresses civil rights issues.


Starkloff moves from the nursing home into his own home.

Education of All Handicapped Children Act passes, requiring free and public education in the least restrictive environment possible. This law is now called Individuals with Disabilities Education (IDEA) Act.


St. Louis becomes the first city in the nation to have lift-equipped public buses.


Paraquad officially becomes a Center for Independent Living and it one of the first 10 centers nationwide to receive federal funding.

The year also marks the beginning of Paraquad’s Peer Consultation program, Information and Referral and Community Education.


Paraquad’s Deaf and hard of hearing program is formally established.

An ad hoc group of the first 10 federally funded Centers for Independent Living meet in St. Louis and form what would become the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL).


Paraquad’s Youth and Family program is established.

Federal funding for Centers for Independent Living is abruptly revoked.


Through the efforts of Sen. Tom Eagleton, D-Mo., federal funding for Centers for Independent Living is reinstated.


Missouri’s consumer-directed personal attendant services program is established in state law.


Paraquad moves from its location on Laclede Ave. to Castleman Ave.


Paraquad’s Youth and Family Program begins a youth group that includes disabled and non-disabled children, a first of its kind in St. Louis.


Missouri is one of the first states to establish Centers for Independent Living in state law and enact state funding.

The Fair Housing Act was amended to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities.


Paraquad’s Career Options and Employment program begins.


The Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act is passed and signed into law.


Max and Colleen Starkloff receive the Distinguished Service Award from President George H.W. Bush.


Public Policy becomes an official department at Paraquad.


Max and the Magic Pill, a documentary chronicling Starkloff’s battle for accessible transportation, is produced by KMOV-TV and receives an Emmy Award.


Missouri passes legislation permanently allowing disabled voters to cast absentee ballots.

Paraquad moves to its new location on Lindbergh Blvd. in Creve Coeur, Mo.


Deaf Way Interpreting Services is established.


College for Living is merged with Paraquad

The United States Supreme Court rules in Olmstead vs. L.C.  that the unjustified isolation of people with disabilities is discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act.


Robert Funk succeeds Max Starkloff as executive director of Paraquad.


Paraquad begins its Assistive Technology Reutilization Program to address Medicaid cuts impacting people with disabilities by providing access to durable medical equipment.


Paraquad moves to its current location on Oakland Ave. in St. Louis.


College for Living celebrates 30 years of service to people with developmental disabilities.

Proposition A passes in St. Louis, restoring cuts to bus service and Call-A-Ride.


Paraquad founder Max Starkloff dies from complications of the flu at age 73.


Paraquad dedicates The Jim Tuscher Auditorium. Tuscher was the former Paraquad vice president of Public Policy and a leader in the disability rights movement.


Paraquad hosts its inaugural Shine the Light Awards and recognized businesses and people committed to accessibility in St. Louis.


Aimee Wehmeier succeeds Robert Funk as executive director of Paraquad.

Voters in the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County approved Proposition P, a measure to fund improvements to the Gateway Arch grounds, parks and trail, including increased accessibility for people with disabilities.


A rule change to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 includes a disability employment goal of 7 percent for companies that do business with the federal government.

Paraquad announces plans for a new Accessible Health and Wellness Center that will feature more than 40 pieces of accessible exercise equipment and serve up to 500 people annually.


Congress passes the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act with overwhelming support from both the U.S. House and Senate. It is signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Paraquad launches AccessibleSTL, a partnership between Paraquad and St. Louis businesses, organizations and government entities to create a more inclusive, accessible city.


Paraquad opens Bloom Café, a social enterprise restaurant that serves a fresh take on casual dining while helping people with disabilities grow their independence through a unique job training program.