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Perseverance in Profile


AARON BATES Fighter for Disability Rights


BY TOM CALARCO


“Everything’s been a fight in my world,” says attorney Aaron Bates. The Jacksonville, Fla., native was born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a severe form of muscular dystrophy, and has no use of his legs and only limited use of his arms.


10 F DIVERSITY & THE BAR® MARCH/APRIL 2014


rom the time he was placed in special education in grade school to the time he challenged the state of Florida to expand its pro- vision of personal care attendants for the disabled, his life has been a struggle to live normally. “Tank God for my


parents,” Bates says, “who wanted me treated like every other kid.” His father, a maritime


engineer, and his mother, a homemaker, have devoted their lives to the care of their children—


Bates has a younger sister who also has SMA, which is passed genetically. Because of their strong advocacy, Bates was taken out of special ed and placed in classes for gifted children. “My dad instilled in me a drive to hold myself to a


high standard,” Bates says. “He taught me how to fight and not take no for an answer, and that lesson has played out in my life.” His family was deeply involved in the Muscular


Dystrophy Association, and Bates became the MDA’s Florida poster child. Although he enjoyed the work and made many friends, he found the considerable travel demanding. “I got burned out by the time I was 14,” he says. Tis period of his life ended with Bates’s acceptance to rigorous Stanton College Prep in Jacksonville. “I had


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