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'Campaigning' for access

Just opened up my new Ouch! e-mail newsletter and clicked a link to Ian Cook's latest:

Like new style 'lite' beers and lagers, there's a new brand of disability politics on the market. It is in many ways similar to the politics of old - it takes issue with the inaccessibility of buildings and facilities - but it does so in a more collaborative and less 'in your face' way. And it appeals to as many - if not more - non-disabled people.


I went and read the Ouch story, and this part of it really struck me:

I was part of the Scope team surveying pubs in the Printworks Centre off Corporation Street.

Although there was a wheelchair user, most of the participants were non disabled. So why would a group of mainly non-disabled people choose to give up a Friday night to check out access?

Gary Lyness-Brown, 33, an office manager for a company of mortgage brokers, summed up the main reasons: "It was just a fantastic evening for a really worthwhile cause on Scope's Big Night Out.

"I chose to get behind Scope North West's campaign as I've a number of friends who are disabled, and whenever we go out we are faced with the same access issues.

"I believe everyone should have the right to be able to go and enjoy their leisure time, whether that be going to the cinema or to pubs and clubs, so I'm hoping the Big Night Out will identify those places that can make improvements. I really do believe in the Scope slogan about it being time to get equal."

Sometimes I think we have done ourselves a disservice here in America by always acting like people with disabilities need to be the ones to do access things. I know many ABs who get upset about the lack of accessible buildings but they can't do anything about it, as I understand it. You cannot file a lawsuit over access unless you yourself are disabled, I think. To me that doesn't seem right. The business is breaking the law. Anyone ought to be able to make them fix the problem.

Just my two cents,


I could not agree more with MJOHNSON on this:

I think of all the individual crips who file access suits and get crucified in the press for doing so, and wonder, again, why big national organizations (or even state organizations, like those mostly do-nothing statewide independent living councils) don't get involved in access rights and take the heat off the lone wolves who get demonized.

Read Cook's report
-- and then wander around on the Scope site -- and ask yourself? Why aren't U.S. groups like the National Council on Independent Living doing it? Or the well-funded National Organization on Disability? Or even UCP -- the sister "charity" to Scope (which used to be called the Spastics Society. . . see here and here ).

We as a group of disabled people have only George Lane and Beverly Jones to thank for opening the publics eyes to the gross discrimination we as disabled folks face under Title II violations.

Most of these so called disablity groups are lame ducks. They take in millions of tax dollars and contributions and do nothing to help people who actually need it. All they do is offer their sympathy.

What we need is a Dr. Martin Luther King to lead the way for this country to wake up and smell the roses. We need someone that can command respect and at the same time lead the protests that are very necessary.

The American's with Disabilities Rights of 1990 was a start. Some 16 years later we are still fighting issues as access to courts and government buildings. Judges are laughing at Title II requests in the laws face with immunity.

Yet.....there is a lot of progress with private access to places. This I fail to understand. How can private business people be held more accountable then the government?

Your right MJOHNSON.....we are not properly represented.



We have to be more savvy about the language we use and the context in which we frame our issues.

As in:

"I'm not physically challenged, I'm discriminated against. My disability did not keep me from getting in this building, the lack of inclusive thinking by the designer and architect did."


"It's not about whether or not I walk, or see, it is about buildings (or events, designs, etc.) that are architecturally and structurally biogted. People like me are being penalized because those resposible for constructing it did not think to include us."

The Disabities Network of NYC does public policy work, but we still get blank stares when describing what we do as social justice.

In the end, a balance between awareness and money is needed. In order to bridge this gap, we need to find funders who think of disability as a social justice issue (rather than one of charity or medicine) and who are able to fund both staff time and bankroll a large scale public awareness campaign.

Unfortunately, curing crippled children is a much easier sell ... because giving someone a handout requires little personal responsiblility or introspection. Launching campaigns like you describe requires putting the very people whose minds you seek to change on the spot to actually do something - and admit their own gaps in civic planning.

As anyone who has ever dealt with a politician can tell you, getting them to admit mistakes is a very, very difficult thing to do.


Mr. Carter-Long:

While I certainly appreciate your response on the issue and as a representative of the Disabilities Network of NYC, I beg to wonder what type of funding Dr. King had way back when he pioneered the Civil Rights movements of the 1950-1960's in the poorest of areas? These were very poor folks that Mr. King represented.....yet....he achieved his goals with mass protests and made this country aware of the great injustices people of color were receiving, especially down south.
We are some 60 plus years ahead of Dr. King. And now there is the ADA on the books and its being enforced amongst private business owners and yet Judges and Courts, even after TENNESSEE V LANE, are still committing Title II violations.
The US Department of Justice has in fact stated on the record they are overwhelmed with Title II complaints. And in fact cannot conduct investigations.
And private attorneys are refusing to represent litigants under Pro-Bono or Contingency bases because they all say the risks are not worth it. They all fear they will loose in the end.
All we need to do is to get some attorney's willing to represent people who are subject to Title II violations and launch federal law suits. There are no attorneys willing to do such thing.
However, if any police officer violates the civil and/or constitutional rights of a person with race/gender you see these attorneys racing to grab the case. Just look at Ron Kuby and Sanford Rubenstein race to get the case first....because these kinds of Civil Rights violations command large sums of money.
No one cares if a Disabled Persons Civil Rights are violated in New York. You have better luck having the Pope dine with you in your home than to have these caliber of lawyers represent a disabled person in a lawsuit.


First I want to thank all those who have done hard work to get us where we are today. Then I want to add, it almost seems to me that the disability orgs actually fight against civil rights issues, and title II complaints.

One of the biggest problems is the idea that the complaint must be a "group" initive. Oh, well, my new motto is, access delayed is access denied. I have filed 6 complaints against the city, 3 with the Mass Commission Against discrimination, and 3 with the Mass Archiotectural Board. Let me remind everyone, that a well known disability organization has recently made my "job" more difficult, as it has awarded the City of Cambridge the Most Accessible City Award! Now when I complain, I am informed, "How can that be, we are the Most Accessible City in America, we must be doing something right!

No one from the City's Disability Commission joined the access survey walk I led in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the ADA; they were too busy writing the application for the award.


Your right Ms. Podgers.....that is exactly what the NY State Attorney GEneral told me....he needs many people to complain about an issue (disability related).
And much to my disbelief, the US Department of Justice says the same thing....they DO NOT represent [individuals] in cases. But that is non-sense....if one persons civil rights were violated by a police officer and the race card was used....you can bet they would be there in less than a heartbeat. This is my very point. Disability civil rights violations command NO attention. No one cares.
When George Lane and Beverly Jones launched their lawsuit the only reason the ABA got involved is because it involved many people that were complaining.....not just one person.
And I agree with everything you wrote.


Over this past weekend my daughter went to a local movie theater in our neighborhood.
She came home to tell me a story. One of her friends brother (about 1o years old) is in a motorized wheelchair. He was sitting in the walking isle not disturbing anyone and watching the movie. The manger of the theater came over and told the child he had to move out of the way so people can see the movie. His sister was sitting in the row next to him.
My daughter, age 12, confronted the manager and demanded to know who complained. The manager threaten to eject her and the child out of the theater. The little boy was crying hysterically.
Mind you, there were many adults present in the movie theater who said nothing.
My daughter threatened to call me (her father). I too am in a motorized wheelchair part time. The manager told her he is not scared of anyone and told her to call who she wants to.
My daughter said her father is a police officer and the manager told her that her friend who was in the wheelchair can stay and so can she.
I wish she would have called me that night. Perhaps its better she did not.
She was with a lot of her friends. None of her other friends stood up for this child in the wheelchair or for her.
But the sad thing.....all the adults in the movie theater did not stand up for neither this child in a wheelchair or for my daughter who was engaged in a heated argument with the manager.
This is what our society has come to. I taught my daughter well and I am proud she had the courage to stand up to a ignorant manager who wanted to throw her and a disabled child out of the theater.
We have only each other to stand up for our rights. Only those who are disabled, or who has family and/or friends who are disabled, can truly understand this disabled child's feelings.


AJ, what your daughter's friend experienced is not an isolated incident. Many wheelchair users are hassled for sitting in the aisle. The hassling is illegal. Theaters are required to provide seating.

You might find the following links interesting:

Justice Dept. Announces Two Movie Theater Access Settlements -- Then One Appeals

Crips in back of theater

In NYC, the show goes on, and so does the discrimination

Guy Fisher's blog entry Wall of Asses


Thank you Teresa.
I see many things that are illegal. However, those that are in charge of enforcing the law....are purely impotent.
I was a cop for 25 years. For 25 years I heard them order us to enforce laws, ordinances, rules and regulations. And like puppets we did these things without asking why.
Now I see the ADA passed 16 years ago. There are courts and private enterprises ignoring the laws that were passed.
There are no puppets that address these lawbreakers.
I am not sure if that was my generation to just did as we were told or nowadays, there is no interest in enforcing the laws, or people are no longer puppets and just don't care.
Try get the Town to enforce the ADA? Joke in a half.
You said the USDOJ? Even a bigger joke.
The ADA is enforced when there are some high ranking people demanding it be enforced.
The little guy? Ha ha.....not a chance.
This little boy? Well....nobody really cares about his feelings that night....that is except those of us that know what it feels like.

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