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StoryCorps

Friends honor disabled brother's legacy

Scott Nance and Adam Ballard are part of a network of disability activists who frequently shut down intersections and grind business to a halt in order to draw attention to the needs of the disabled.

Nance and Ballard had volunteered separately to scope out the site of the group’s next protest when they met.

Nance hadn’t planned to be on the same bus as Ballard that day. But when the two friends interviewed at Access Living earlier this month for StoryCorps, they agreed it was a fitting place for their friendship to begin. Since then, the two have been arrested together for protesting for the rights of people living with disabilities.

Ballard uses a wheelchair and though he has been disabled his entire life, only sought out a community of other disabled people as an adult. That came after he had an accident that put him in a nursing home for several months.

Nance, on the other hand, was born with an audio disability, as were his brother and sister. But Nance’s brother Devin also had physical, developmental, growth, learning and speech disabilities. For many years, Scott Nance acted as his brother’s personal attendant. But then Devin died suddenly and tragically. "That put me in a really dark place," Nance says. "And I didn't crawl out of that hole until we did this march in front of the White House."

Nance was passing out flyers with other disability activists in Washington, DC, when he had a realization. A woman asked him why he was there and "in that moment I had to challenge myself and think. And I gave her an honest answer. I'm here for my brother.”

"He died at the age of 26," Nance says, of his brother Devin. "And that's ridiculous that we live in a society where that still happens. He was someone who loved life. Loved playing catch. Loved going out in the community. He died alone and he never should have been in a position to die alone like that."

“I never met Devin,” Ballard says. “You entered my life after all that had gone down. But a couple years ago I think we were out drinking and it happened to be Devin's birthday so I offered a toast to your brother. And I said, ‘Here's to your brother because if he's even halfway responsible for the man you are now then I'm really sad that I didn't know him.’”

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