Eunice K. Fiorito, 69, a retired disabilities advocate for the Education Department who in the early 1970s helped forge a national grass-roots coalition, died of congestive heart failure Nov. 22 at her home in Alexandria.
Mrs. Fiorito, blind since her mid-teens, had been a leader in the American Council of the Blind when she and members of other organizations, such as the National Spinal Cord Injury Association and the National Association of the Deaf, created the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities to fight for common federal policy goals.
The coalition's founding board elected Mrs. Fiorito president. In that capacity, she organized marches and championed issues ranging from the employment of disabled people to government assistance and support programs for them.
After helping establish New York City's office for people with disabilities, Mrs. Fiorito received a political appointment to what was then the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in Washington in the late 1970s.
She stayed with the department for 19 years while performing myriad jobs, including special assistant to the commissioner of the rehabilitation services administration. Before her retirement in 1996, she was vice chairman of the department's task force on Section 504, which recommended accessibility solutions for disabled people within the agency.
She was a native of Chicago. As a young child, she had a history of vision problems.
Mrs. Fiorito then lost her sight after being struck in the face with a baseball.
She graduated from Loyola University of Chicago and received a master's degree in social work from Columbia University.
In the early 1960s, she was a rehabilitation teacher and caseworker with the Illinois Department of Public Welfare.
In the mid-1960s, she joined the social work staff of the Jewish Guild for the Blind of New York City, where she helped open one of the early outpatient clinics for children with multiple disabilities.
In retirement, she chaired the Alexandria Commission on Persons with Disabilities and helped coordinate publicity for the Alexandria League of Women Voters.
Survivors include her husband, James Fiorito of Alexandria.