February 11, 1979 ~ October 2, 2022
Born in: San Francisco, California
Resided in: Rolling Hills Estates, California
Jonelle Malia Ng passed away into the arms of our Lord on Sunday, October 2, 2022 at Torrance Memorial Hospital in Torrance, California. Jonelle died from complications related to her gastrointestinal system that led to a bacterial infection in her bloodstream. She was 43 years old.
Jonelle was born on February 11, 1979 in San Francisco, California. She was the third and youngest daughter of Verna and John Ng. Jonelle was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck twice, cutting off the oxygen to her brain. This lack of oxygen resulted in her being quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, renal tubular acidosis, and a heart murmur. She was in the hospital for three months and then went home to Concord, California where she lived basically the rest of her very full life.
At the very young age of four months, Jonelle started school at the George Miller East Center, a county-operated educational program for children with disabilities, including physical and occupational therapy services. She was bused to and from school every day. Verna went to the school every day and fed her lunch.
Jonelle matriculated through various programs operated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education and by the Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) until she graduated from Concord High School in 2001 at age 22. While doing so, she and her parents held these government agencies accountable. They took MDUSD to fair hearing three times and won every single time.
Jonelle and her parents’ ultimate contribution to disability rights was joining a class action discrimination suit brought by parents of disabled children against the MDUSD. The suit was in response to AB 3632, a bill allowing access to program, placement, and augmentative alternative communication devices for people with disabilities. This suit also set a precedent, not only locally, but nationally, providing an accessible education for the disabled community under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The parents who filed the suit formed a small group called Advocates for Special Kids (ASK). ASK was represented by Disability Rights Advocates, a nonprofit firm based in Berkeley, California. Its lead attorneys working with ASK were Rhoda Benedetti and Sid Wolinsky.
The federal suit, filed in March l998, alleged that the MDUSD denied disabled children equal access to school buildings and educational and social programs and prevented them from attending their neighborhood schools. The Spieler v. Mt. Diablo Consent Decree (Decree) negotiated in 2000 represented the most sweeping school access settlement to date under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It created equal access to school buildings, educational programs, and social programs. MDUSD committed $20 million over 10 years to ensure equal access for its 5,000 students with disabilities at 55 school sites, enabling all students with disabilities in the MDUSD to attend their neighborhood schools. The Decree reformed the MDUSD’s special education system with policies supporting the integration of disabled children into all educational and social programs. As a result, MDUSD created three new programs to benefit disabled students: a Model Augmentative Communication Program for children who need assistive technology; a Model Aide Training Program to train classroom aides to assist children with disabilities; and a full-time Parent Liaison to assist parents to navigate the special educational system. Along with others, Jonelle and her parents made this win possible for the disabled community.
It wasn’t all business for Jonelle, though. Her favorite color was pink and she was known as “the princess” in her house. Jonelle loved all of the Disney princesses, but had a particular fondness for Cinderella (because, of course, she had two ugly step sisters). Jonelle enjoyed going shopping with her mom to buy new clothes and hair accessories, watching Disney movies, and spending time with friends and family, particularly once she had nephews and nieces who called her “Aunty Jo.” Jonelle loved traveling to Disneyland and going on Disney cruises with her mom, Uncle Renny, Jennifer and her family as well as Jayna and her family. Jonelle also enjoyed road trips to southern California to stay with Jennifer and her family for weeks at a time. Her most favorite vacation destination, though, was HAWAII. In Hawaii she loved visiting extended family and friends who treated her like a Hawaiian princess.
Though Jonelle was nonverbal, she understood everything people said to her. Her mode of communication was answering yes/no questions, nodding her head to the left for “no” and to the right for “yes.” (When she was really lazy, she’d use only her eyes.) That said, Jonelle’s nonverbal “NO” could be just as vehement and forceful as anyone’s verbal version. Jonelle also loved to laugh, shrieking in delight at anyone snoring or even pretending to snore.
Jonelle was predeceased by her father, John G. Ng, who passed away in 2006. Jonelle is survived by her mother, Verna C. Ng of Rolling Hills Estates, California; oldest sister, Jennifer Ng (Bill Munday) of Rolling Hills Estates, California; middle sister, Jayna Ng (Peter Jensen) of San Jose, California; five nieces and nephews; and many aunts, uncles, and cousins who will miss her dearly. A Celebration of Life with full mass at St. Agnes Church (3966 Chestnut Avenue, Concord, CA) will be held on Saturday, February 11, 2023 at 11:30 am. Reception with refreshments will immediately follow in the parish hall and on its outdoor patio area. The family feels it fitting to have a party on what would have been Jonelle’s 44th birthday. In lieu of flowers, Jonelle’s family suggests donations to Jonelle’s former adult day program: Vistability , 1340 Arnold Drive, Martinez, CA 94553. Indicate on memo line that the donation is for “CAP-Concord in memory of Jonelle Ng.”