FDR and all that
No one knows why FDR did what he did to hide his disability from the public (FDR: Rolling in His Grave? May/June). I still think we're missing the point: Even with a disability, FDR was able to guide this country.
This article reminded me of "in spite of" stereotyping. FDR was more than his disability. He proved that a person with a disability could be productive in a society that frowns on disability.
We need to show our society that a person with a disability can achieve. FDR, I feel, hid the fact of his disability because society could not accept that a person with a disability was strong enough to lead a country;. This is true even now, as long as people with disabilities remain hidden from all sectors of society. There are individuals in college today who don't know that FDR had a disability; I feel there are many in society still who don't recognize this. Do we as a society want to continue to hide this fact from coming generations?
FDR did not set out to show society that a person with a disability could do what any other person could do; but that is what he has shown to people of today. In the '60s and '70s African Americans claimed "black pride," claiming their differences. What do we as a movement claim to be proud of? Where is our pride in ourselves? We need to be proud of who we are.
M. A. OSTERTAG
Congratulations to all those overzealous people with disabilities who seem to forget themselves that FDR was a man first. The Commission did not even follow FDR's request for a small rock memorial. The imagemakers made this memorial.
The Commission, advocates, and FDR had different priorities. FDR loved his country, fellowman and family most of all. His disability did not run the Oval Office, his heart and mind did.
As a person with cerebral palsy, I sincerely hope the wheelchair President Clinton promised to be added to the memorial will be somewhat discrete in it its appearance. Otherwise it will have put a tragic political end to what the political pundits have sought for their own gain. Clearly this is not what FDR would have wanted.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent" It's too bad the people of the disability community continue to focus on the inferior as if it were a badge of honor. This is truly a sad commentary that a group of people should abandon the wishes of FDR the man. I will never forget FDR for what he did, and if by chance I forget he had a disability, so be it. It is not how he wanted to be remembered. It's not how I want to be remembered either. It's time for some people to throw away their emotional and spiritual crutches and walk in a way that leads by example rather than unearned mandate.
RONALD A. SHEPPARD
Having never had the pleasure of digesting your material before, I was thoroughly consumed by the first issue I read (May/June). I am disabled, and death has not been an option throughout the entire course of my trauma-involved life. I hope to keep my head above water despite my disabilities and so far have done just that. . . . I have managed to acquire a bachelor's degree with support from state agencies and have also managed to secure some work that I do enjoy. Although I am not totally self-sufficient and I have experienced some despair, I also maintain a responsible stance in accordance with the affairs of my life. "It's amazing what you can do when you don't know what you can't do." (Garfield.)
. . . . Death is never the answer to our struggles, people. . . . There is something deep inside us all that emerges when life is threatened, and we can rely on that in times of need. Let's don't just fall down on a knee and permit limitations to cause radical solutions.
DEBORAH ALEXIS ALLEN
Although I fully appreciate your good intentions regarding the story concerning my wife and me ("Florida couple pushes for ramp," May/June), I was deeply disturbed by the apparent misunderstanding over several points.
Your article noted that "a long, unlit path running parallel to [the beach] is now Betty's only means of access to her apartment." This is 100 percent wrong! The path as described is Betty's only means of access to the lower lobby business office, restroom, meeting room, drinking fountain, common sitting area, etc. Our apartment is quite easily accessed through the front door which leads directly to two elevators.
Your article says, "It became impossible for her to get to the condo through the front lobby . . ." It never became impossible for her to get into the building through the front door, and our complaint has never indicated that. We want and sorely need access to the lower lobby level via the front entry door. The lower lobby level is two steps down from the front door entry level.
You wrote, "To get to her condo from the outside of the building . . ." It should have said, "to get to the lower lobby level, not "her condo."
Toward the end of the article, you write, "I could probably drive a car in a wheelchair -- plenty of people do -- but how would I open the gate and get around the pool to the car?" [This reporting] is a total disaster. If Betty could drive (she no longer does), she could simply exit the building through the front door after exiting the elevator and she would be at our parking lot level.
Finally, you write, "Chester still maneuvers Betty's wheelchair down the two steps that separate the upper and lower levels of the lobby." This is 100 percent wrong also: the next time I (Chester) maneuver Betty's wheelchair down the two steps" etc. will be the first time. Only a fool would attempt such a maneuver; I don't think of myself as a fool!
I seriously urge you to consider requiring all of your writers to submit a draft to the named subject for approval with regard to facts and general accuracy. I asked that this be done and was turned down. This problem might easily have been avoided had you required your staff people to do it MY WAY.
After re-reading the article, I begin to wonder whether or not an actual personal interview ever took place.
I totally agree with Cass Irvin's article on society's perception of attendants (Attendant problems, May/June). I'm a disabled person with a relatively hidden disability; I suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and a series of strokes and am only 44 years old.
Society makes no allowances for those with hidden disabilities. This is especially egregious when it comes from those who should know better. I informed the Orange County, Calif. court of my disability and was laughed at.
My attendant requested that he be allowed to accompany me to my deposition because I require his attendance to monitor my fatigue, rate of speech, general orientation and assistance with personal hygiene; I get lost trying to find the bathroom.
The deposition was taken in a public building without an elevator. I cannot manage stairs because of dizziness and visual problems.
The court denied his request. My attendant has my power of attorney, but the court called it a "sham." My neuropsychologist submitted a declaration to the court, and the court said her declaration was "not credible." My neuropsychologist has 5 years of postdoctoral education and has treated thousands of patients.
Discrimination wears many faces in the world. I sympathize with people who face discrimination in access to public accommodations. I have been denied access to justice and I believe my rights under the ADA have been violated. I believe I'd get better treatment if I'd killed someone. The courts bend over backwards for the likes of O. J. Simpson and Timothy McVeigh; but for those of us with hidden disabilities -- no way!
Perhaps we've had enough of the subject of "awareness days" but perhaps not (The Wrong Message, March/April)! It is a tenet of the disability rights movement to discourage stereotyping. So it is with a sad heart that I hear the notion that all awareness days are the same. Baloney! One has to look beyond the buzz phrase "awareness day" to see if effective, direct advocacy accompanies all the pomp and ceremony. Only by evaluating the results of awareness days can one say whether they suck or not. My comments are based on being a participant in ADAPT actions both nationally and locally. I'm not merely a "politenik."
NORBERT M. HOLMBLAD
I really enjoyed Chet Mottershead's Courage can be a perfect word (March/April). This article is what disability pride is all about! Yes, we are courageous, and I'm proud to be part of a wonderful courageous group of people!
Columbia/HCA is considering building a hospital here in Norman, Oklahoma. Norman already has a public hospital. Columbia/HCA, the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain, owns 10 percent of the nations hospitals; on May 3, In These Times reported that Columbia/ HCA has over a dozen lobbyists in Washington, DC. It also has 86 lobbyists in 19 states. The chain is under investigation for questionable Medicare- Medicaid activities and billings.
Here's what we in Norman need from the national disability community: What experiences have you had when treated in Columbia hospitals? Has Columbia fought against your interests in state and national battles, or supported assisted suicide in your states?
If you have a story to tell, please send it to me. Our community is worried that Columbia might open a hospital here, siphon off the more profitable patients and cause the public hospital to fold or cut treatment to poor and/or disabled people.
PS. How about an address for Not Dead Yet?
The number listed in the May/June issue for the 504 Sit In celebration was incorrect. The correct number for the 504 Celebration is 510/849-2991 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The number that was listed -- 1-800-466-4232 -- is DREDF's U.S. Department of Justice-funded ADA Information Hotline.
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