Margaret Wingate, a champion for the rights of disabled Utahns

Tuesday , August 08, 2017 - 4:30 AM


Sometimes a little righteous anger can lead to great things.

Nearly 50 years ago, it inspired Margaret Wingate to found EnableUtah.

Wingate, 96, died July 30, 2017, in West Haven. She improved the quality of life for thousands of Utahns — and all because of the way society looked at people with disabilities in the 1940s and ‘50s.

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Wingate and her young family lived in Roy. According to Wingate’s obituary in the Standard-Examiner, “Her daughter, Patricia, was born with physical and mental disabilities, and Margaret became a champion for the rights of disabled children and adults.”

She refused to allow society to discard children like Patricia.

“Back then, people made fun of (people with handicaps) very badly,” Wingate said in an interview. “They had segregated them.”

That incensed Wingate, said her other daughter, Terilee Wingate.

"A doctor told her to put her daughter in a home, walk away and pretend that you never had her. She decided there was no way she could do that," Terilee Wingate told JaNae Francis, a reporter for the Standard-Examiner.

Wingate soon set to work lobbying state and local lawmakers to create jobs for those with disabilities. In 1968, that led Wingate and her friend Maureen Richards to organize the Weber Sheltered Workshop, which became EnableUtah.

EnableUtah offers training, guidance and employment to help people with disabilities become more independent and improve their standard of living. Workers perform light assembly tasks, as well as cleaning, sorting and packaging.

The nonprofit started a janitorial firm more than 30 years ago and also operates a shredding operation, which suffered a costly fire in March.

Just as Wingate hoped, EnableUtah helped people with special needs find their place in society.

“They feel more independent,” said Jim Baima, the agency’s director of business services. “You can see that they really enjoy doing what they do. They go out and have jobs just like anybody else. They realize what they can do and what they are capable of doing.”

Wingate didn’t stop there, however — she also worked with other parents to launch the Canyon View School, which helps Weber County students with disabilities from preschool into their early 20s.

By insisting we acknowledge the talent and potential of disabled Utahns, Margaret Wingate made this a better place. All it took was a little righteous anger.

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