As an actor, Alan Toy has worked
in dozens of films and television shows, including "In the Line
of Fire," "Born on the Fourth of July," "Matlock," "Diagnosis Murder,"
"Highway to Heaven" and "M*A*S*H." People recognize him as Professor
Finley, the nasty cult leader on "Beverly Hills 90210."
Alan Toy of the Advanced Policy Institute works tirelessly
to help make seniors and people with disabilities self-sufficient.
But in real life, Toy pursues
a passion beyond the big and small screen. He is pushing a progressive
agenda that revolves around issues of access and opportunity for
persons with disabilities.
Toy, project director in the
Advanced Policy Institute (API) in the School of Public Policy and
Social Research, has worked tirelessly with seniors and people with
to help them become self-sufficient.
A wheelchair user as a result of polio when he was 3, Toy was recently
named by Gov. Gray Davis to the Statewide Independent Living Council,
which helps persons with disabilities live independently. New technologies,
he believes, can open doors for them.
"In this technology-based era, there is an enormous
opportunity for people with disabilities to make more productive
contributions to society," said Toy, vice chair of the council. "If
we can start providing services and opportunities through
technology, more and more the digital divide for people with
disabilities will shrink."
At UCLA, Toy is creating a Web site that will, among
other vital functions, make it possible for people in Los Angeles
County to plot a wheelchair-accessible path of travel to their
destination or pinpoint locations where they can access paratransit
Expected to launch this spring, the new site, Living
Independently in Los Angeles (LILA), is being developed by the
Westside Center for Independent Living and API. With a prototype now
up and running, the site's developers are negotiating with the City
and County of Los Angeles to obtain vital data.
With such information, people would be able to
pinpoint the location of curb cuts and blue parking zones and locate
disability-friendly businesses and services by going to the
interactive mapping section of the Web site.
"LILA is really the 21st-century incarnation of very
basic, independent-living movement philosophies," said Toy. He has
hopes that LILA will become the place in cyberspace where people
will rally around issues of access and civil rights.
A dedicated civil rights activist and a natural
community leader, Toy is also a union activist in the Screen Actors
Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
and has spoken and written about media portrayals of persons with
disabilities. He has worked with the Media Access Office,
Inter-Guild Committee of Performers with Disabilities and the
American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. A Santa
Monica resident, Toy has served on the city's Community Access
Committee and Accessibility Appeals Board and currently chairs the
city's Rent Control Board.
Toy became fascinated by urban-planning issues
pertaining to home health care and disabilities after coming to UCLA
as a Community Scholar in 1992. He enrolled in the urban-planning
graduate program and obtained his master's degree in 1999.
"I want the university's relationship
with the disability community in Los Angeles to be defined by something
more than the abuse of parking permits," the activist explained.
"LILA is a comprehensive project that can benefit the university
and the disability community."