Lynda Ruth Bardis, a longtime state administrator and activist who championed civil rights and independence for people with disabilities, died Sept. 14 of sarcoma, her husband said. She was 71.
With few mainstream programs available for disabled students, Ms. Bardis spent a year at a school for blind people after losing her eyesight to congenital glaucoma as a teenager. She went on to live independently and study in France, and earned a master’s degree at UC Berkeley before going into public service to advance equality and opportunities for those with disabilities.
“She didn’t want to be pushed off in a corner and treated differently,” said her husband, Bob Ely. “Her feeling was that she wanted to function and fully participate like anyone else.”
After moving to Sacramento in 1969, Ms. Bardis worked as a lobbyist for the California Council of the Blind and the Association of Social Workers and spent 35 years in state government. She was division chief of services for blind people in the Department of Social Services and retired as a deputy director in the Department of Rehabilitation.
Meanwhile, she worked to improve the quality of life for disabled people as one of the founders of Audio Vision, a radio program for blind people that broadcasts news stories read by volunteers. She helped organize Sierra Regional Ski for Light, which teams blind and sighted people for cross-country skiing.
Beyond serving the disabled community, she supported equality and social justice for all as a past president of the Sacramento chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and as a founding member of the local chapter of the National Organization for Women. In 1980, she was appointed to a state commission on the reorganization of social services in California.
Born in 1942 in Kansas City, Mo., Ms. Bardis moved with her family to Orange County after World War II and graduated from Tustin High School. Her mother was an artist for Disney Studios, and her father was a railroad worker and later a butcher.
In addition to a teaching credential, she earned a degree in French from UC Santa Barbara, a certificate from the University of Bordeaux in France and a master’s degree in romance languages from UC Berkeley. She spoke several languages and traveled widely in Europe with her husband of 33 years.
“She was quite skilled,” Ely said. “She also traveled a lot in her job by herself. It was very important for her to be able to function on her own.”
Ms. Bardis was “a very warm person with a brilliant smile that could just light up a room,” said Catherine Campisi, former director of the state Department of Rehabilitation. She enjoyed telling funny stories and sharing adventures from her travels.
“If she wrote about a trip, her writing would be exceptionally descriptive,” Campisi said. “She would be with people and had a great sense about what they were seeing, and she really was able to translate that into written words. She was very expressive and fun.”
In addition to her husband, Ms. Bardis is survived by a stepson, Chris Ely; a stepdaughter, Kim Bennett Ely; four grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
A celebration of her life is set for 1 to 4 p.m. Oct. 5. For information, contact her husband at Robert_Ely@hotmail.com.
Memorial donations may be made to Sarcoma Foundation of America, 9899 Main St., Suite 204, Damascus, MD 20872.