May/June, 1998
blank space Logo design reading 'Electric Edge: Online Edition of Ragged Edge magazine'

UPS could let folks fly in their wheelchairs

The news that United Parcel Service is expanding its operation in Louisville is great news for our community. UPS is very innovative: who else would have thought of creating modules with seats that can be slipped in the cargo planes so passengers can fly on the weekends? .

As a person who knows many people who use wheelchairs, I would like to urge UPS to be truly innovative with their modular concept: have one of the sections installed complete with tie-downs for wheelchairs built into it! .

This would make flying truly accessible to wheelchair users, allowing them to ride in their own chairs (like they do on buses). This would also avoid the horrors of transferring to an aisle chair to get aboard, having batteries drained on motorized wheelchairs, worrying that your chair will be destroyed in the baggage section-or lost. .

Yes, this does exceed current access requirements; but UPS could set an example and be the first carrier to allow the use of tiedowns so wheelchairs users can fly in their own chairs!.

John W. Garrett II .


Death demands coverage

The death of a brother in a chair because he didn't complain about the lip in the doorway of a favorite breakfast place is unconscionable ("Death in a Doorway," March/April). This event demands continuing coverage and, since it happened in Louisville, we hope you will take this on.

Your summary of the Mouth investigation of DOJ was concise and to the point. What is needed to round out the coverage is the view from the other side. What has been the experience of disabled people who have either consulted DOJ or filed complaints with that agency? On several different occasions we have gone through the formal process of initiating a complaint, and on several other occasions we have turned toward DOJ as a resource. Usually the results have been less than satisfactory.

Ed and Toni Eames

Fresno, CA

Ragged Edge will run a "view from the other side" in an upcoming issue. -ed.

Who speaks for Not Dead Yet?

In the last issue of Ragged Edge, a letter appeared from one of us, Mary Jane Owen, expressing concerns about the relationship between Not Dead Yet and organizations and individuals representing the religious opposition to assisted suicide. The letter responded to an unattributed quote by a Not Dead Yet member, presented out of context. The member was challenging organizers of the Harvard International Conference on Euthanasia, organizers who had excluded Not Dead Yet from the broad array of presenters. .

The original quote asserted that neither the Catholic Church nor hospice organizations "speak for Not Dead Yet." It was statement of fact to the conference organizers, medical students, the majority of whom appeared to favor assisted suicide, and was not meant as a statement of disrespect toward the other opposing groups. .

Now is a time of significant and growing legislative advocacy by pro-euthanasia groups like the Hemlock Society, which recently called (a) for the creation of a lesser class of "homicide" for killing ill or disabled people, and (b) for a judicial process to authorize the involuntary euthanasia of incompetent individuals including a "demented parent, a suffering severely disable (sic) spouse, or a child." (December 3, 1997 Hemlock Society press release.) .

Not Dead Yet has consistently worked alongside other groups who oppose legalization of assisted suicide, including the National Catholic Office for Persons With Disabilities, as well as other religious and medical groups, at the U.S. Supreme Court, and in several state battles that have ensued since the high court overruled a constitutional right and turned the issue back to the individual states. Although Not Dead Yet argues against assisted suicide from a strictly secular perspective, many members of Not Dead Yet share affiliations with these other organizations and we welcome the involvement of people of all beliefs. It is essential that respect be shown to all our confederates engaged in this life-and-death struggle. Society's devaluation and oppression of people with disabilities must be challenged by all of us in its many forms. .

But perhaps the greatest threat to all our progress in recent decades is the idea that being severely disabled is worse than being dead. Now that idea is being pushed as legislation, discriminatory legislation. We must work side-by-side. Make no mistake, we are in the fight of our lives, the fight for our lives. .

Diane Coleman
Not Dead Yet
Mary Jane Owen
National Catholic Office for
Persons With Disabilities

We can't isolate ourselves

Mary Jane Owen's comments ("Distancing also isolates," Letters, March/April) reminded me of something. About a month before the NDY Supreme Court Rally in January 1997, Evan Kemp and I were talking, and I mentioned to him, "You know we should involve the Catholic Church in this. I know a priest that could really get things rolling." Evan thought it was a good idea, too.

Anyway to make a long story short, I totally forgot to call the priest until the Saturday before the rally. When I called him, he told me he would see what he could do. On the day of the rally he showed up with about twenty kids from Bishop O'Connell High School (he's the chaplain there.).

When I saw him, he apologized for not having more kids there and asked me if I would explain to the kids why I and other disabled people were there. I talked with the kids and the following day my quasi-adopted son who goes to the same school heard about what a "cool" person I was from the kids I had talked with.

Mary Jane Owen is right on. We can't isolate ourselves. If I hadn't called that priest, those kids would never have been there to back us up or to learn more about disabled people.

A few weeks later Evan and I were again talking and he told me that some in NDY did not want to be associated with the Catholic Church and its views on assisted suicide. He said that he couldn't support that view. I agreed with him. I'm both - Catholic and disabled and I say, "Whatever it takes, baby.".

Leye Jeannette Chrzanowski
Disability News Service

A hard place for handicapped people

The idea behind genetics is not creating the perfect human being, or great leaders. Geneticists, however, seem determined to work in this direction, hybridizing, inbreeding or monkeying with the mechanisms themselves. None of these techniques advances genetics, and often they work against it. They may develop the biggest, most beautiful rose, but if it cannot survive without help, it is a genetic failure.

The purpose of genetics is survival. The survival of the species, the survival of the individual, and the survival of the gene.Genetics places bets across the board. Genes that are strong survivors not only survive when coupled with other favorable genes, but often pull genes that seriously handicap along with them. More survival means more reproduction, and more survivor genes. Variability within the limits of the environment is preserved and the species advanced, as to survival, reproduction and flexibility. .

There is a place in this system for the handicapped, a hard place but an important place. It may not be politically correct, but that's the way it works ..

Benjamin A. Greaves
Georgetown, CT

Watson is wrong

I do not consider myself "degraded" or somehow less of a person for being disabled ("You probably won't like James Watson's ideas about us," March/April). I may not ever rise to achieve what James Watson defines as greatness; but I am more than happy with my current life, I am content with it.

I lost my right leg below the knee in 1989 and I consider it one of the best things that have happened to me in my life . I am 44 years old and now more physically active than before. My marriage is stronger. I have a much more positive outlook on life. I am more comfortable with myself and others. And the friends I have made working in the disability rights field are better friends than my 'old' friends.

James Watson is the one with a limitation. His ignorance, prejudice, and narrow mind is the biggest disability of all. I feel sorry for him. .

David L. Sandbrook
Westwood, CA

Poem deserves a larger audience

Jim Ferris's wonderful long poem (Notes from the Surgeons: Drs. Sofield, Louis, Hark, Alfini, Millar, Baehr, Bevan-Thomas, Tsatsos, Ericson, and Bennan, March/April) rewards a careful reading. The tragedy of the child forced to go through years of mutliation resonates with me, as it will no doubt for many of your readers. Yet this issue is very seldom ever discussed. It really needs to be exposed, maybe in articles as well as in this superb poem.

I hope Ferris's poem gets an audience beyond Ragged Edge. Besides, the title itself is really very clever!

Roland White

Those ridiculous parking spots

I can walk but a short distance. I can make it into stores if the disabled parking spot is located near the store entrance, but some quick-stop stores display the signs at the far end of their parking area, away from the store entrance. This may meet the requirements of the law, but not the needs of a real disabled person. .

Let us suppose you have broken your leg and are on crutches. Would you be happy to park at a disabled parking spot so far away?.

It is alarming to find so many places of business meeting only the minimum requirements of the law. I am sure many of these problems are oversights at the store management level. The real solution will come only from disabled people themselves.

Bob Williamson
Meridian, TX

Living on SSI

Being disabled feels like I have stepped into quicksand. Or maybe I should say "'fallen into quicksand.".

I have gone from someone in business for myself to someone living on SSI. I use the term "living" jokingly. I take solace in my few remaining abilities. .

What's my beef? Though our government hypes savings, I am not allowed to have more than $2,000, or my SSI ends. So I am forced to spend. I cannot allow any bank account to go over that $2,000 mark. .

Why doesn't the government just pay itself - why am I caught in the middle of it? If thousands of dollars were at stake, I might be able to understand it, but not for this piddling amount. Where did they get that $2,000 figure from?.

How do I save to pay taxes (which are close to $6,000) when, if I have more than $2,000 it all ends? What a mess!.

The other choice is a quantum leap to millions, so it does matter. .

Being disabled is hard enough, and they make it even harder.

J. H. Finkle
Huntington, NY


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