Fiduccia has pushed for increased access to reproductive services, including mammograms and pelvic exams. She and others were successful in pushing to expand the national hate crime statistics law to include violence against people with disabilities. She also served on the California Attorney General’s Civil Rights Commission on Hate Crimes.
Along with her future husband, Daniel Fiduccia, a legal affairs consultant she met during a training session in 1992 for disability advocates, she fought to raise the income limit for federal health benefits. , which was an obstacle to marriage for couples with disabilities. Daniel Fiduccia was a childhood cancer survivor and his mobility was limited by radiation treatments which weakened his bones.
Under federal health limits, Barbara Fiduccia’s salary as a single woman was low enough for Medicare and Medicaid to cover the cost of her personal assistants and ventilator. But the couple’s combined income exceeded the limit, forcing them to choose between marriage and the health benefits that helped keep Barbara Fiduccia alive. Her dilemma, she told the San Jose Mercury News in 1995, felt “like a dirty joke.”
“As a girl, I have been told in many ways that I will always be alone,” she told the newspaper. Instead, she says, she found “tremendous love and passion” with a man who wanted to spend his life with her.
“I got over the stigma,” she said, “and now I can’t get married.”
With her fan strapped to the back of her wheelchair, Barbara Fiduccia toured Capitol Hill, advocating alongside other disability activists, while Daniel Fiduccia helped develop a legal strategy. Although Congress did not eliminate the so-called marriage penalty, the rules were changed in the mid-1990s to allow states to grant exemptions to individual couples.
“They wanted to get married, and that was their only chance,” said Marsha Saxton, director of research and training at the World Disability Institute in Oakland, Calif., And a friend of Barbara Fiduccia, during a telephone interview. “But they also wanted to change policy.”
The couple married in July 1996 at a small Roman Catholic service near their home in Cupertino, Calif., Said Rick Santina, a family friend who was in attendance. They loved children, although they didn’t have any. Santina said her children got to know Barbara Fiduccia as “Aunt Bip” because she let them sound the horn on her wheelchair as she made them climb onto her lap.