Announcements Index | Ragged Edge Home | Post announcement

May 01, 2006

The Rockland Journal News: Rights for disabled

The Rockland Journal News
Rights for disabled

(Original publication: April 29, 2006)

Within the past year I have become disabled. I am a former police officer who sustained a serious line-of-duty injury that has left me 100 percent permanently disabled.

Becoming part of the ranks of the disabled, I learned that I, along with millions of other disabled people, are subjected to serious discrimination. Something that I thought was corrected in 1990 after the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act. I now know, and greatly appreciate, the meaning and efforts that were part of the civil rights movement of the 1950s-1960s during this country's sad time in history. I understand, as a disabled person, what Rosa Parks felt like sitting in the back of a bus because she was black, what Dr. Martin Luther King fought for and what millions of Americans of color experienced.

Disabled Americans are grossly discriminated in society just like people of color were. There are many federal, state and private organizations that take in millions of tax dollars or contributions which fail to help those of us they were created to help. When called upon to help, they cannot and most often do not come to the aid of the disabled.

Most of these organizations offer sympathy but no real relief. The federal and state government (attorney general) are very selective on what cases they investigate for a civil rights violation pertaining to a disabled person.

George Lane and Beverly Jones are two modern-day warriors for the disabled. Lane and Jones were disabled and could not access upper floors in Tennessee state courthouses. Lane, Jones and several others sued Tennessee in federal district court, alleging that by denying them public services based on their disabilities, Tennessee was in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to Title II, no person may be denied access to "services, programs or activities" on the basis of his disability. The act allows victims of discrimination to sue states for damages. This decision occurred in 2004, not 1964.

Sadly, despite this overwhelming victory for the disabled, state and local courts in New York continuously violate the Americans With Disabilities Act. Judges are one of the biggest violators of this act.

Police officers are held accountable for violating a person's civil or constitutional rights. We are sued, and more often than not lose our jobs. Some of us go to jail. When judges of the court outright violate the civil and constitutional rights of the people, they are immune from civil lawsuits. They may or may not be held accountable for their individual actions.

There is one other lesson I have learned, now being disabled: There are two classes of people who can access the court system in America. One is the rich and the other is the poor. Middle-class people are being denied access to the courts. It is the middle class that does not have the thousands of dollars to hire lawyers to represent them.

The laws in this country must change. Judges must be held accountable when they outright violate the civil rights of any American citizen. Only then will a judge render a true verdict. So long as judges know they can render a verdict without repercussions, they will continue to do so. Judges abuse their authority with immunity.

As one judge recently stated, "If you don't like it, appeal."

Posted by AJ Odze