Disabilities advocate, former member and Vice Chair of the West Hollywood DisAbility Advisory Board (DAB), Michael Arrigo, passed away this past Wednesday, September 27, 2022. He passed shortly after his 66th birthday on September 21st, and just days away from the launch of Disabilities Awareness Month in October.
According to a source, Arrigo was chronically ill. He suffered from advanced complications of liver cancer. He also developed a severe lung infection. Life-living care was removed last week and he passed away Wednesday evening at roughly 8:40 p.m. at Kaiser Hospital.
Arrigo is remembered for his positive energy and resilience despite having multiple disabilities. He was awarded the DisAbilities Advocate Award by the DAB in 2007 and a banner with his name and likeness hang on Santa Monica Boulevard each year during DisAbilities Awareness Month.
“Michael had his own sweep of multiple disAbilities, any one of which would have been a challenge for many people,” DAB member and friend, Rick Watts, told WEHO TIMES. “He had Parkinson’s Disease, which is progressive and there’s no cure, and was himself a longtime HIV/AIDS survivor…he also had partial blindness. I met him at a training function that had been sponsored by Project New Hope, which provided services for the HIV afflicted communities… he was a very gentle soul, well informed, and amazingly positive, given everything he was dealing with health-wise over the years, even during his periods of homelessness.”
Arrigo was a member of The Access Board, an independent federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities. He served as a liaison between Access and DAB. Through that partnership Arrigo lead the way in getting the city of West Hollywood to add a number of crosswalks in the city, including one by Plummer Park. He lead the way to crosswalk safety, lighting, signage and striping. He was also on the speaker’s bureau for Being Alive, an HIV/AIDS organization, and he hosted a question and answers local public access show called Living Well with HIV, which won the Disability Service Award in the Media category in 2009.
Arrigo, hit financial hardships when the COVID-19 pandemic began. He was evicted from his longtime West Hollywood apartment and he put his belongings into storage. He’d split the cost of a motel room with a friend when he could afford it and he’d spend some nights in a park.
However, in September of last year, he became one of the first residents to move into the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Ariadne Getty Foundation Senior Housing building at 1127 N. Las Palmas Avenue.
“He had a beautiful spirit,” said DAB board member and longterm resident Yola Dore. “There was something within him that gave him the ability to keep going forward, not back, to do things for others. And that’s what his life was about to me. He was trying to make progress. Early on he was working towards the good with the Americans with DisAbilities Act. People here still don’t understand that. They considered DisAbilities an afterthought. It’s unfortunate. Even though Micheal moved away to Los Angeles, he continued participating.”
“Michael was a gentle warrior and an incredible advocate for the disabled community,” said former DAB Vice Chair, Marco Colantonio, who served with Arrigo in 2015. “I was honored to serve on the DAB with him. He was an inspiration and a tribute to the power of the human spirit proving that obstacles are just opportunities.”
“Michael was a kind and passionate soul,” said former West Hollywood Mayor and council member, John Duran. “He was a fierce advocate for people with disabilities. He served as a Disabilities Advisory Board member for more than a decade.”
This piece with be updated to give details on his memorial service.