A longtime Bloomington resident and volunteer who made it his lifelong mission to advocate for people with disabilities receive Bloomington’s annual human rights award.

John Schatzlein, who died June 30, will be honored with the 2019 Omar Bonderud Award during the Bloomington City Council’s Dec. 2 meeting.

Schatzlein became a paraplegic when he fell from a tree at age 14. From that point, he dedicated his life to working in the rehabilitation field and serving people with disabilities in careers at Goodwill Industries, the University of Minnesota, Control Data and Sister Kenny Institute.

He advocated vigorously for people with disabilities, traveling to Washington, D.C., to lobby for passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He held numerous leadership roles on state and national committees, including the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, the Mayo Clinic Spinal Cord Injury Advisory Committee, the Metropolitan Council Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee and the Minnesota Governors Council for Persons with Disabilities. He also served on the Bloomington Human Rights Commission and Community Center Task Force.

Schatzlein was the founder and president of the American Sled Hockey Association, which later became a Paralympic sport. During the past two decades, the organization has provided thousands of U.S. athletes with the opportunity to compete in the sport. USA Sled Hockey has won four gold medals at the Paralympic Games.

His efforts led to greater accessibility in sports arenas, hotels, office buildings and sidewalks across the Twin Cities. He was an activist for people with disabilities until he passed away on June 30 at the age of 70.

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