Gag helps ID Spare

Thanks for The Gag -- the last time I laughed so hard over a magazine was twenty years ago when I used to light up and read National Lampoon.

Your Polly Spare puppet offering has, coincidentally, turned out to be an invaluable help to me. I went to Washington to make a presentation to the National Association of State DD Program Managers. All the head honchos from 50 states were there, along with a couple hundred other participants to discuss implementation of Self Directed Supports. Although there are lots of academic and theoretical papers and presentations floating around, Oregon appears to be one of the few places that is actually doing it.

Halfway into my presentation I was interrupted by a shrill voice wanting to "correct me." I looked up and there she was, hair and all, Polly Spare -- standing defiantly in front of me. Thanks to your "Gag" issue, I recognized her immediately.

My first thought was to ask her how to get urine out of carpets.

It turns out that Polly Spare doesn't like self-directed supports -- or me. I am "smug," "self-righteous" and "irresponsible." She pointed out that what we really need is a state bill of rights for the retarded. And to be sure there was no misunderstanding, she let me know doesn't like our publication, The People First Connection, either.

From there things went downhill quickly -- with, I believe, me getting the better of the exchange. Highly enjoyable.

So thanks again for the Gag issue -- without it I may have confused the person in front of me with someone reasonable that I had to be nice to.

Michael Bailey
Statewide Community Organizer, Community Partnerships Project
Portland, Oregon

Keep on Gaggin'

The Gag was a stitch! I particularly enjoyed the "How to Deal with Sighted Persons" tips.

Tom Nanzig, Editor
Alternative Press Collection
Ann Arbor
I especially loved "Uncle Ed Treacle's Cripple Stories" and the "SuperDude Says" interview. Who says activists don't have a sense of humor?

Jon Sarra
"Supreme Court Roundup" would make a great theme for a John Callahan cartoon. Not that he needs much goading!

Too bad the mainstream will most likely never see such wit and wisdom.

Vicki Lansen
Bless your little twisted hearts for "The Gag!" It's exactly what I needed to make me feel like I wasn't alone. I'm grateful for this thing that bonds so many of us, cross-disability, together. If nothing else, this proves to me that we are building a disability culture, a place where I don't have to feel out of bounds.

Is there any way I can subscribe to "Uncle Ed Treacle's Cripple Stories"? I haven't laughed so hard since the last time I rolled over someone's toes.

Kim B. Hetrick
Dearborn, MI

Seeing the light on Peter Singer

Last night, even though it was pitch dark, I finally saw the light. Peter Singer is onto something! ("Disability scholar says Singer views 'misguided,'" D.R. Nation, November/December). I should preface my remarks by saying I walk slower than some squirrels. Actually, an able-bodied fox could outrun Singer and maybe even Jack Kevorkian.

In any event, a friend and I had arrived late to a movie and, wouldn't you know it? all three of the handicap parking spaces were taken. This made me think: Obviously, the whole world can't be turned into one big parking lot. Therefore, we must take as a given and a priori that society can't designate more than x number of parking spaces as "handicap parking spaces" without unduly burdening joggers, businessmen, people in the third world, assorted deans at Princeton University and everyone's brothers and sisters and cousins.

This makes it axiomatic and self-evident that the current crop of defectives (a/k/a "people with disabilities," as Not Dead Yet would call them) would be better off if doctors were able to decide in the privacy of their own homes and outside of the Constitution to lessen the competition by winnowing out certain new members of this cohort early in life. The squeamish among us should be reassured by the fact the doctors will base their decisions on the information available at the time, combined with their own biases -- and will also wrest consent, informed or otherwise, from the parents.

Lisa Blumberg

USOC Responds to Story

I am writing in response to an article that appeared in the September/October 1999 on-line version of your publication, Ragged Edge magazine. The article, which was written by Ms. Josie Byzek, is one of the most biased, unfair and irresponsible stories I have ever read.

Rather than presenting an objective article that reflected multiple points of view, Ms. Byzek instead chose to manipulate data and misrepresent facts in the interest of supporting her premise: that the United States Olympic Committee has provided inadequate Ievels of funding for disabled sports organizations and Paralympic athletes. To further support her premise, Ms. Byzek used only selected portions of quotes and excerpts of statements made by USOC officials, including comments made by me.

To be certain, this type of irresponsible journalism is a tremendous disservice to your readers.

I would encourage you to thoroughly review the attached document, which provides a comprehensive and balanced look at the USOC's record of support for disabled sports organizations and Paralympic athletes. Specifically, I would draw your attention to efforts made by the USOC during the past 12 months, which include:

For the first time, the USOC Athletes Advisory Council included athletes with disabilities, with track and field athlete Scot Hollonbeck and skier Sarah Billmeier becoming voting members of the AAC.

In April, USOC President Bill Hybl appointed a Special Committee on Disabled Integration and Funding.

The USOC retained the Washington firm of Sagamore and Associates to seek additional funding for the Paralympic and disabled sports athletes, with potential government funding.

The USOC Marketing Division was authorized to begin a process to select a manager to develop Paralympic sponsorships and increase funds for the disabled.

In March, I formed the Paralympic Administration Group with a goal of determining the needs and reviewing the services and resources to be provided to the Paralympic and disabled programs by each USOC Division.

President Hybl has scheduled a special meeting of the USOC Executive Committee on Dec. 6 in Denver with an agenda limited only to discussion related to Paralympic issues and integration of disabled sports.

The USOC will present for approval by the Executive Committee on Dec. 6 the creation of a "Director of Paralympic and Disabled Sports" position among USOC Senior staff.

There are other clear examples of the USOC's commitment to our disabled sports organizations and Paralympic athletes, including increasing the number of USOC Board of Directors members representing disabled sports from one to four (1998); increasing the quadrennial budget for Disabled Team Games support from $1,770,000 (1993-96) to $2,964,031 (1997-2000); and most recently adding $420,000 to the 2000 Paralympic Games Team budget to ensure equal, upgraded apparel and commemorative items for the U.S. Paralympic Teams.

By the conclusion of 2000, the USOC will have awarded more than $12,000,000 in grants to disabled programs and athletes since 1992.

And again, when the U.S. Olympic Team visits the White House and the President of the United States following the Sydney Games in 2000, it will be side-by-side with the members of the 2000 U. S.. Paralympic Team.

Richard D. Schultz
Executive Director, United States Olympic Committee
Josie Byzek was given an opportunity to reply:
Repeated calls and faxes to USOC spokespersons for information on specific points were answered, when we got any response at all, with either "no comment" or a referral to the USOC Manager of Disabled Sports. Apparently Schultz doesn't like the answers his staff gave us.

More on the ongoing controversy and our disputed coverage

USOC headquarters access

At USOC headquarters in Colorado Springs, they've made an effort to make their Visitor's Center accessible. However, the four handicapped parking spaces are beside the building behind an extended front wall. That means you must know where they are, have x-ray vision, or ask someone if there's handicapped parking! Once there, you only have about 50 yards to slalom to the front door.

USOC bigwigs are officed on the second floor of Olympic House; Mark Shepherd's office is on the first floor. His only contact with his supervisors was by telephone, or monitoring the entrance to catch them as they walked in/out. Rarely have they ever darkened his door.

Tom Deniston
Colorado Springs
Discrimination in the skies

I have been a disabled world-class table tennis player for over 10 years. In 1998 I booked a flight to Vienna, Austria to attend the Slovakia Open.

After paying for my ticket I contacted the travel agent who has been taking care of my travel needs for many years to reserve me a bulkhead area seat for accessibility. She contacted me several hours later to tell me that KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) refused to take me on their flight unless I had a "personal care attendant." They told her their flight attendants did not have it in their contract to "assist the handicapped."

I was outraged. I have traveled to well over 25 countries and have never had a problem on any flight! I am fully independent; I do not have a need at any time for an attendant.

I instructed her to contact the airlines and explain this and to ask them to please reconsider. She talked to them, then told me they would let me take the flight only if I wore a catheter and leg bag. The suggestion was absurd -- I don't have any need to wear any external urinary equipment as I do not have any problem in that area. I have been disabled for over 26 years and I know my personal needs! If a person breaks both of their ankles, would they have to insert a catheter and wear a leg bag to get on a flight with KLM Airlines?

I am an owner of a multimillion-dollar business, not some wet-behind-the-ears kid who has never traveled before. I contacted my attorney and was advised to go to the airport and attempt to board the flight regardless of the position taken by KLM.

At the airport I was accosted by the woman at the check-in desk and told that "It is not in the contract for the Stewards and Stewardesses to assist crippled people during the flight!" I spoke to several levels of managers and was told the same thing.

I was forced to book a flight on Air France, and returned home on Lufthansa Airlines. These carriers were wonderful; they made sure that I was comfortable and my needs were met.

While in Slovakia, I learned from Dutch athletes that this happens to them all the time. KLM will not allow them to take any flights over 3 hours! Yet KLM airlines is the carrier for the Dutch Paralympic and Winter Paralympic Teams! I have since met several people that were left stranded in Amsterdam and other European cities by KLM. What gives them the right to make such decisions!?

I understand that we do not have the ability to tell another sovereign nation how to run their country, but KLM Airlines does business in the United States and they are in a business partnership with Northwest Airlines, an American-owned and operated corporation traded publicly on Wall Street.

I have filed suit against KLM Airlines and will be in court in June, 2000. I know I'm on very thin ice; no one has ever filed this kind of suit against an international air carrier.

I would appreciate hearing from anyone with any resources to assist me in support of this case. And I would encourage people with mobility disabilities to book a flight on KLM in an effort to flush them out of the shadows of discrimination.

James B. Hall
Walnut, CA

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