Friday, July 23, 2010, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Time) there will be a live webcast from The Great Hall in the United States Department of Justice’s Robert F. Kennedy Building.

After 20 years, there are still many areas within our society which have barely been impacted by the ADA.  Handicapped (or disabled if that is your preferred term) persons must file grievances, complaints, and lawsuits to receive what they are entitled to in accord with the Americans with Disabilities Act — the law makes it necessary for those of us being discriminated against to take some action against the violator!  So, why wouldn’t they wait — architectural barriers are still standing because a person who would’ve enjoyed access decided it was not in their nature to complain or become a problem.

I’ll celebrate what has taken place — and, I’ll look forward to much more changing for the better!

Follow this link 15 minutes prior to the scheduled time in-order to view the celebration live.  The link will also provide access to the recorded event afterward.

I’d like to hear about your thoughts, feelings or experiences — a comment-button is located at the top of each posting.

Enjoy the weekend!  😎

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I believe I first became aware of the song Talking Wheelchair Blues during this past summer — probably while running a search on wheelchairs and cushions.  I remember playing a link I found at the time — I seem to recall the singer was a woman, but I haven’t found her since.  I didn’t do anything else about it at the time, except I told my wife about the song.

Recently, a friend lost her father, following a lengthy illness.  My wife has been requesting my help in finding humorous, light-hearted, songs to play and leave as messages on the friend’s cellphone.  So, as I was digging around on Rhapsody, my wife remembered the Wheelchair song and asked me if I could find it.  Not only did I find the song on Rhapsody, I searched Google and found the lyrics, which I’m posting below.

I feel a close connection to events in this song — I recall times, from my personal experiences, when I had to use service entrances or service doors (as described in the song) in order to gain access to a building.  Even today, more than 15 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), if you are in a wheelchair you may still have to travel through the kitchen, housekeeping or delivery areas to get into/out-of a specific building. I’ve also had many parents and waiters (waitresses also) react to me like those in the song.

Talking Wheelchair Blues by Fred Small — from his album, “The Heart Of The Appaloosa”:

I went for a jog in the city air
I met a woman in a wheelchair
I said “I’m sorry to see you’re handicapped.”
She says “What makes you think a thing like that?”

And she looks at me real steady
And she says, “You want to drag?”

So she starts to roll and I start to run
And she beat the pants off my aching buns
You know going uphill I’d hit my stride
But coming down she’d sail on by!

When I finally caught up with her
She says “Not bad for somebody able-bodied.
You know, with adequate care and supervision
You could be taught simple tasks.
So how about something to eat?”

I said, “that’d suit me fine,
We’re near a favorite place of mine.”
So we mosied on over there,
But the only way in was up a flight of stairs.

“Gee, I never noticed that,” says I.
“No problem,” the maitre d’ replies;
“There’s a service elevator around the back.”

So we made it upstairs on the elevator
With the garbage, flies, and last week’s potatoes.
I said “I’d like a table for my friend and me.”
He says “I’ll try to find one out of the way.”

Then he whispers, “Uh, is she gonna be sick,
I mean, pee on the floor or throw some kind of fit?”
I said “No, I don’t think so,
I think she once had polio.

But that was twenty years ago.
You see, the fact of the matter is,
If the truth be told,
She can’t walk.”

So he points to a table, she wheels her chair.
Some people look down and others stare.
And a mother grabs her little girl,
Says “Keep away, honey, that woman’s ill.”

We felt right welcome.

Then a fella walks up and starts to babble
About the devil and the holy bible;
Says “Woman, though marked with flesh’s sin —
Pray to Jesus, you’ll walk again!”

Then the waiter says “What can I get for you?”
I said “I’ll have your best imported brew.”
And he says “What about her?”
I say “Who?” He says “Her.”

“Oh, you mean my friend here.”
He says “Yeah.” I say “What about her?”
“Well, what does she want?”
“Well, why don’t you ask her?”
Then he apologizes.
Says he “never waited on a cripple before.”

We immediately nominated him for Secretary of the Interior.

Well, she talked to the manager when we were through.
She says “There’re some things you could do
To make it easier for folks in wheelchairs.”
He says “Oh, it’s not necessary.
Handicapped never come here anyway!”

Well, I said “goodnight” to my new-found friend.
I said, “I’m beginning to understand
A little bit of how it feels
To roll through life on a set of wheels.”

She says “Don’t feel sorry, don’t feel sad,
I take the good along with the bad.
I was arrested once at a protest demo
And the police had to let me go.

See, we were protesting the fact
That public buildings weren’t wheelchair accessible.
Turned out the jail was the same way.

Anyway, I look at it this way —
In fifty years you’ll be in worse shape than I am now.
See, we’re all the same, this human race.
Some of us are called disabled. And the rest–
Well, the rest of you are just temporarily able-bodied!”

Rhapsody music service offers a trial program which does not require any sign-up.  If you’d like to hear Fred’s song, clicking the link below should give you that opportunity!

Enjoy  😎

Talking Wheelchair Blues

I’d wager that the word “segregation” causes you to think of racial segregation.  That has been a dominate use of the word segregation in the United States for more than 40 years: the Civil Rights protests during the mid-1960s were focused on “racial segregation.”  Subsequently, Federal Laws were passed making that form of segregation illegal.

However. . . . . .The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines segregation as “the separation or isolation of a race, class (emphasis added), or ethnic group by enforced or voluntary residence in a restricted area, by barriers to social intercourse, by separate educational facilities, or by other discriminatory means”.

It’s the separation or isolation of a class that I want to speak to here.  Specifically, the class commonly referred to as “disabled” (I prefer the word handicapped).

My mobility limitations have kept, and are keeping, me in a form of enforced restriction or separation:  I DO NOT have the same unrestricted access to the world around me that the able-bodied have!  And, in order for you to understand the restriction I’m speaking of, I ask you to consider whether I can visit you where you live:

  1. Do you have steps that must be climbed, either up or down, in order to enter your house/apartment/trailer/domicile?
  2. Are there other architectural barriers which would interfere with or prohibit my visiting you where you live?

If you answer NO to both of the above questions I’d say that you are living in a very uncommon place.  And, even if you answer NO to only one of the questions I’m likely to be prevented from accessing your residence.  Quite simply, my life experience has shown that I can visit almost none of the people I know.  In my early years, using a manual wheelchair, the few I have visited needed to make some form of accommodation for me: construction of a suitably-safe ramp or physically lifting me (with the risk of injuring themselves and/or me).  As my weakness increased, and I began using a power chair (electrically-powered wheelchair), the only viable option that seemed available to me was to visit people outside their home: on their lawn/sidewalk (weather permitting); in a restaurant, bar or otherwise publicly accessible location!  It is this form of separation/isolation/segregation that has caused me the deepest pain in my life.

Not being able to spend my money in a particular store, because of architectural barriers (a step, an unaccommodating door or aisle, lack of a curb cut); not being able to live in the house or apartment I would like to, because of architectural barriers; not being able to apply for a particular job that I was qualified for but the building or work site was not barrier-free: while the aforementioned can be frustrating/aggravating/hurtful, none of these exclusions are as painful to me as not being able to visit with family or friends in their home.

Following the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, many able-bodied persons I spoke with thought that the problems disabled persons experienced in areas of housing, employment, health services, etc., would be corrected/overcome.  As I see it, the ADA was a small bandage on a large wound.

I think the original ADA, as passed, contained less than 18 lines of text.  As these things go, the Act is just a skeleton or framework.  It takes a couple of years after the Act’s passage by Congress before the Rules can be written; where the explicit language is fleshed-out in detail for all to know and follow.  And, there are exemptions and exceptions in some of the rules, to avoid being a hardship on those supposed to follow the rules: restaurants with fewer than 15 employees were not required to be accessible.  Interestingly enough, the U.S. Senate was exempt from being required to provide accessibility to those they supposedly wrote the ADA to protect.  My Government at work to help me…… NOT!

During my entire 30 years and 1 month of employment with the University of Delaware I was the only full-time employee, that I know of, permanently confined to a wheelchair: no one in the Administration was ever able to refute my claim.  There were wheelchair users in the student-body, as well as a broad diversity of other physical/learning/emotional disabilities.  But, high-ranking officials at the U of D reminded me several times that the University would only do the minimum required by law when constructing or modifying buildings/classrooms: meaning, many doors would NOT be wheelchair-accessible if only 1 would satisfy the law!

Until standards of design and construction are put into practice that do not restrict or isolate the “mobility-handicapped”, due to architectural barriers (let alone the many other ways people with physical challenges are still segregated); until we are given barrier-free access to a much larger piece of the American Pie, I have not witnessed the integration I long for!