Questions One and Two

It's funny how the same questions keep cropping up for me. You'd think after all the years I've been at the disability dodge that I'd've figgered out more stuff.

Question One: Why does public condemnation of access so often go unrebutted? Why aren't there more local and national gimp groups speaking out in condemnation of the anti-access lobby?

This probably seems like I'm still on my rant from Monday. In fact I was put in mind of this perennially unanswered question of mine by an email in my in-box this a.m. with a couple of nasty stories from a San Diego TV station about disabled attorney Theodore Pinnock who has filed some more access suits.

"Some La Mesa businesses are being sued, accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act," begins the brief item on the KFMB website. " The accuser is no stranger to these types of lawsuits. . . " Note that KFMB chose to file the story in its "Consumer Alert" web section.

KFMB's later update reports that the five La Mesa businesses "are crying foul over a lawsuit accusing them of violating the American with Disabilities Act" and goes on to report that "Theodore Pinnock, a local attorney with cerebral palsy" who filed the suits, "is known for suing 67 businesses in Julian last year for not making their shops more accessible to the disabled."

Those being sued in La Mesa claim Pinnock is just trying to extort money from small family businesses.

Now I know it's accurate for a TV station to report what the defendants said -- but how about a little balance in the reporting? All that's said is that the TV station tried to contact Pinnock and he was "out of the country."

Are there no other access advocates who could have given a quote?

The stories certainly don't qualify as journalism. Journalism, as I learned it -- where a reporter tries to actually get the story; to find out what happened, to at least appear to be objective, to interview parties with varying viewpoints, seems to be a thing of the past.

But here's the rub: maybe no gimp groups in San Diego ever speak out about access. Maybe TV news departments don't know any spokespeople to give "the other side." Could that be true? Could it be that when reporters try to reach access activists their calls aren't returned; or they're told to call back later, or the source is reluctant to say anything publicly without having a meeting with other gimps first, or...

I don't know, but I do know the pattern. Stories like these appear again and again. And unless I'm mistaken (and I surely hope I will be!) there'll be no press conferences, no statement, no opeds, no anything much by disability activists. Let's watch and see.

Question Two: Why are there so many ridiculous stunt projects put on in the name of "cure" -- and virtually no public-involvement projects in things like access or visitability? Question Two popped into my mind when my eyes fell on a story in my local rag this a.m. about -- I am not making this up -- shooting guns to raise money to cure cystic fibrosis. The organizers actually call their event "Shooting for a Cure," and it's described as "a clay-shooting event that benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation." (Read Ready, aim, shoot for cystic fibrosis cure.) Like the JailAThon for the MDA Telethon, these events are a dime a dozen. This being Breast Cancer Awareness Month or whatever it's called, I'm sure there are scads of variations on this theme being trotted out by those "Racing for The Cure."

Question Two isn't so much about why community-minded folks stage these events (although that might be the topic of another blog entry some day) -- no; my question is more about why so many folks seem to put energy behind these things and so very very few put any energy behind "get involved community projects" that have to do with access or rights.

You know Questions One and Two are related, of course.

I think Question Two is a new one for you dedicated Edge-Centric readers, but you know I've flogged Question One over and over (here and here and here).

And I still don't have an answer.

Does anyone out there have one? If so, please comment.

October 05, 2006 | Email this story


Comments (newest comments at bottom)

Question # 1. Why only one side?
(My) Answer: The news media are in gross violation of the ADA. They are instituions, supported by ad dollars that would have to change if the law were inforced. They are protecting themselves and their revenue sources.
Question # 2: Why fundraisers for cures and not for access?
(My) Answer: The "cure" money goes to doctors. They control money flow very well. Access or visability fund-raising would direct money to people who are not MDs. Look for the money trail, look for the power = find the answer.

Posted by: John Jay Frank on October 5, 2006 01:29 PM

We've walked as a family for three of the past four years in a 5K for universally-accessible playgrounds, here in LA--it always gets great turnout. I guess the "kids need to play" hook makes that one work, as a fundraising stunt. The brochures are full of bright-colored playground equipment and smiling little ones--so it's an easy sell.

Posted by: Penny on October 5, 2006 03:20 PM

As far as your first question goes. It sounds like simple media bias. Which the first respondent seems to agree with too. As for the second, again, I agree with others, cure means research, and people feel better about themselves when they are making other people "better". It never occurs to anyone that making someone else's life better by truly giving them the freedom they should have is much more meaningful to the little girl in the wheelchair than having 20/20 vision while being stuck outside the store in that same wheelchair. Anyway, that's my take.

Posted by: Matt on October 6, 2006 10:50 AM

Both questions may have more or less the same answer. Bigotry, paternalism, and the desire of ableist society to keep gimps in a "safe" place -- in "inspirational" roles of quiet, meek perseverance that keep the general public's horror at disability at bay. Note that even the article you link to in your "Where's Theodore?" post, while it doesn't take the usual route of portraying him as an uppity gimp demanding special attention at the expense of those poor small businesses, does still use a lot of words like "overcome" and "inspire" and yada yada yada.

Plus, the fundraisers focus on the diseases/disabilities and not the people who have them, save the poster children cast as wanting to someday be "normal" -- or serving as martyrs for the cause of people like them someday (with lots of hope!) not *being* at all. And save, of course, the families for whom the disease/disability creates such inconvenience and "heartbreak". The "give money/cure X" model is exceedingly prevalent, and very simplistic, and it's widely accepted as the popular and "right" way to conduct acts of charity. Just as the majority of people don't recognize atonal or experimental music that doesn't follow the standard verse-chorus-verse theme as "real" music, folks tend to see causes (like access) that actually require involvement besides running a marathon or giving a couple of bucks as too complex -- not following the "right" model of fundraising -- and as circumventing the "real" problem, which of course is the tragedy of disease/disability. I keep seeing signs that are at least 20 years old on the K of C fundraising jackets that say "Help Retarded Children". My issues with "retarded" aside, I wonder, and wonder if anyone else wonders, "Help them do WHAT exactly?" It doesn't matter to the general public -- by dropping in their dimes, they've "helped". And of course, Mary, I'm preaching to the choir here.

Posted by: Evonne on October 6, 2006 05:53 PM

Oh, and I doubt it occurred to most of the media that Pinnock was an "access advocate", or that anybody should ask one, or that there was such a thing, or that if there were it was anything but greedy gimps being a pain in the ass. I am so SICK of this Human Interest vs. Consumer Beware reporting. It seems there's no middle ground.

Posted by: Evonne on October 6, 2006 06:17 PM

My answer to both questions: people (including the media and most media consumers) hate politics. If disability can be reduced to human interest and charity, that's ok. But if it's "political," then people feel uncomfortable.

To plug a book I haven't read: from, Samantha King's book, "Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy" seems to be asking and answering all the right questions.

Posted by: Art Blaser on October 7, 2006 05:51 PM

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