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About Kaiser Permanente | Heritage

October 24, 2012

Kaiser Permanente has Embraced Diversity Since its World War II Beginnings

Harold Willson

Harold Willson, Kaiser Permanente employee from 1957 to 1977, getting off a wheelchair-accessible BART train. Willson convinced officials to alter the system design to accommodate disabled passengers. Photo from Accent on Living magazine.
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Kaiser Permanente has embraced diversity since its beginnings in the World War II shipyards, and the organization’s ranks have included many disabled individuals who made significant contributions despite their handicaps. Harold T. Willson, a wheelchair-bound Kaiser Permanente financial analyst, was one such person.

Willson, disabled in a 1948 mining accident, successfully lobbied leaders of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) to make the high-speed train system accessible to the disabled.

BART, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, was under construction in the early 1960s when Willson learned that the plans did not call for disabled access. He raised his objections and insisted on alterations. Willson’s quiet persistence made BART leaders stop and listen.

Learn more about Kaiser Permanente’s long history regarding diversity on the History of Total Health Blog »