- The ADA, the home builders and analogies
"Could you please send me the pro se form attorney Steve Gold mentioned
in your article about the Department of Justice?" someone wrote to
us recently. The writer had just finished reading our March/April report
on problems enforcing the Americans w ith Disabilities Act. Gold, who
we interviewed, had suggested disabled people file their own lawsuits.
The investigative stories were interesting, said the reader who wrote
to us, "but came as no surprise to us in the trenches." He'd
"been messing with this stuff" for years, he said.
"This damn ADA law ain't worth the paper it's written on,"
he went on. "I was naive enough to think that it would be carried
out the same way the Civil Rights Act had been, but noooooo. All the hotshot
lawyers that the big boys can afford have blocked every attempt. The same
people we elect to enforce the law are the ones blocking the enforcement."
Sounded pretty accurate to us.
We thought of our correspondent again as we read about the two ADA cases
that just reached the Supreme Court (see pp. 26 and 33).
What our correspondent told us next was also of interest to us, in light
of our cover story this time on the National Association of Home Builders'
efforts to fight housing access.
Reporter Josie Byzek writes, "The NAHB went to Sen. Barbara Mikulski,"
(D. - Maryland), to insist that they shouldn't be required to follow the
manual put out by a disability housing access group under contract to HUD
which details the FHA's access requirements - because the manual "isn't
the requirements" themselves. This kind jockeying and whining is typical
of "the bad guys" our story details. Byzek reports, "Mikulski
confronted HUD Secretary Cuomo, who said he'd recall all the books."
Our correspondent told us, " I drove from Baltimore to Annapolis
to visit the aide for Senator Mikulski" assigned by the Senator to
handle ADA concerns. "I handed her my information and then I asked
her, 'Are you and the Senator aware of all the problems people are having
with enforcement of the ADA?' Her response was, 'no.'
"It was the second time I had visited this lady," he writes.
"My second visit was met with less enthusiasm than the first. She
never really stopped to talk to me. She just sort of kept moving around
doing other tasks while I talked."
- An award for us
- Our popular anthology, The Ragged Edge: The Disability Experience from
the Pages of the First Sixteen Years of The Disability Rag, has been named
an "outstanding book on the subject of human rights in North America"
by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights. Order your
copy today! Or you can order by
credit card online
- A discussion for you
- Next May, a group of interested people, readers of Ragged Edge and
others, will gather in Louisville to begin to discuss our movement's "media
problem." There's an ad on page 26; more information will be coming
in future issues. Mark your calendars and plan to come!
- A woman from the public television series Point of View called.
She was working on an "educational campaign around the broadcast"
of Walter Brock's film "If I Can't Do It" which would air on
POV July 7. The woman from P.O.V. was trying to figure out ways to get
the information out to the disability community, and hopefully, she said,
to set up some kind of discussion group between disabled people and the
public in selected cities.
Weren't there organizations she should contact to get out the word,
she wanted to know? We suggested the general media. But she clearly wanted
to contact some disability groups. .
What about local ADAPT groups, we suggested? (ADAPT is featured in the
film.) She could also contact independent living centers, we told her;
there was usually one of those in every community.
What were they? she asked. We tried to explain, but it wasn't a familiar
concept. Finally, in what we knew was a somewhat weak analogy, we compared
independent living centers to "women's centers, or even spouse abuse
centers, that help women." .
Oh!" The lightbulb had come on. Spouse abuse centers, women's centers
- these were an understood concept: programs evolving from the women's
movement, set up by women to help women. She'd never heard of independent
living centers, she confessed. But she understood when we compared them
to spouse abuse centers. .
We went on to discuss how the disability movement might respond to the
film, and whether disabled people would want to meet with nondisabled people
to talk about the issues. Some would, we said; others wouldn't - just like
people in general.
What were disabled people like, she wondered. What did they think? .
We decided to use another analogy. "Take the gay rights movement,"
we said. There were radicals -. Remember Act Up? we asked her. Yes, she
knew about them - there were moderates; there were conservatives. We told
her that some people had compared ADAPT to Act Up. That helped her understand,
she told me.
"Some gay people are still in the closet," we told her. "Others
are 'out,' but would never march in a gay pride parade; they think those
things are embarrassing. There are all ranges of opinion.".
Oh, she said. That had really helped her understand.
Making analogies with other movements, while it had serious limits,
was a quick and easy way to achieve comprehension. .
We were carried along to the logical next thought: The reason it worked
as often as it did was because people did understand - albeit sometimes
only vaguely - the concepts of a "spouse abuse center" or "gay
pride"; of being "in the closet," of being "out."
For the movie In and Out to have worked at all, screenwriters knew the
average moviegoer had to have a general understanding the concept of "in
the closet." Those concepts had moved into general awareness.
Year after year, we use analogy - because year after year, our side
is still so unfamiliar that we must use the more familiar movements as
Because women's issues and gay issues are commonly discussed in society,
certain ideas from those movements become understood, slowly and vaguely
to be sure, but understood, nonetheless. Their alienness disappears. The
concepts enter the mainstream.
After more than 20 years, shouldn't one be able to say "independent
living center" and get the same comprehension from the average Jo
as saying "spouse abuse center?" It doesn't happen. .