Friday, September 24, 2010

Those pesky disabled folks and their A.D.A

I can’t tell you how many times I have read or heard about the Americans with Disabilities Act being blamed for problems. The costs for a construction project sky-rockets due to A.D.A regulations. A project is delayed, because it turns out that there were A.D.A regs that were overlooked - and costs will also go up. A good idea, like toilet kiosks in New York City, is shelved because it violates - yes - the A.D.A. Or making it A.D.A-compatible would be too expensive.
Damn that A.D.A. Things would be so much better, easier, less costly without it.

This is pretty much the message I get. In the mainstream media, I rarely see stories about how the A.D.A, which was enacted about 20 years ago, makes life easier for those of us who are disabled. The stories are always about how expensive, how restrictive, how much of a hassle the accommodation law is.

Sometimes the A.D.A doesn’t make my life easier. I get angry when I get a hotel room and find that the bathroom has a tub - rather than a walk-in shower - with bars on the walls. I assume this passes muster with the A.D.A, but I can’t use it. And I don’t think there about many people in wheelchairs who can.

But I was reminded recently when I read an article that the A.D.A has even more of a black eye - with help from the disabled. The story in the Los Angeles Times was about a guy in a wheelchair going around and taking pictures in small stores and these pictures being used by a lawyer in sending out dozens of letters at a time threatening to sue for A.D.A violations and demanding thousands of dollars. The article pointed out that this is going on despite a law designed to prevent such schemes and that a new law is being developed.

I have read about such schemes before, and "schemes" is definitely the right word. This is definitely a case of advantage being taken - not to mention a good thing being given a bad name. It is one thing to use a law to make things better and quite another to use it as a money-maker. I would even ask if the guy in the wheelchair taking pictures is really disabled, but perhaps I’m in denial that a disabled person would be in on this.

And I bet the new law being developed will make it harder to file legitimate A.D.A claims.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The man with the ten hats

Not a ten-gallon hat. But ten hats - actually, perhaps nine - on his head. Literally.

This past weekend, I was at a gathering of a group that I have been involved in for ten years. There was a guy, a very sweet, gentle guy, that was there for the first time who turned out to have Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism which makes social interaction and relating to others (empathy, etc.) difficult. I soon noticed that at each meal, he would have an additional hats on his head. (The stack started with cowboy hats and was topped off with a few billed caps.)

I asked a friend what this was all about, feeling stupid for wondering if this hat-stacking is a characteristic of Asberger’s Syndrome. He explained that the guy told him that he wears the hats to attract attention to himself and away from his disability and to help him interact with people, with them asking him what’s up with the hats.

"Smart guy," I told my friend. "He’s a smart guy."

I said this, because I know exactly what he is doing. As I have written about before, I do the same thing with my overalls, as well as my mismatched high-tops, rainbow shoe laces, dreads and hats - although I wear one hat at a time. I use them to focus attention on myself and away from my disability. When, at one point during the weekend, the guy said with considerable pride and warmth, "I’m the crazy, autistic man with the hats," I totally related and was thrilled.

What’s more, I said this and also that the guy is brave, even though I usually hate it when people say this about me. Okay - I admit it - I admire this disabled guy and found him - yes - brave and

What’s even more, I went to the gathering with my new Vmax speech synthesizer, and it was a huge success. Not only was I able to talk more to more people, it turned out to be, once people saw how I use it, a magnet.

Like those hats for that guy.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Who would Jesus hate?

"Would you want to be adopted by a pair of faggots or lesbians?"

I didn’t find this quote in the deep, dark nether regions of the Internet. It isn’t from some ultra-conservative radio host, and I didn’t hear it from a gay-bashing skinhead scowling on the sidewalk.

No, I saw it in the Los Angeles Times two or three weeks ago, and it is from a bishop - an archbishop - Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, archbishop of Guadalajara and one of the most senior Roman Catholic prelates in the nation. He said this in reaction to Mexico City’s ordinance allowing same-sex marriages and adoptions and the Mexican Supreme Court’s upholding it. (He went on to accuse the court of taking bribes.)

Never mind how I would answer his question, and forget, for the moment, the whole gay rights issue. My question here is, how can a respected man of the church - not some fringe minister, a la Fred Phelps - spew such hateful gutter-talk ("faggots").

I may sound shocked. I should be shocked. I wish I was shocked.

But I’m not. This fits right in with the furor over the building of a mosque two blocks from "ground zero" in New York City. Never mind that it will be more of a community center open to all, that it will be run by sufi Muslims, who are the blissed-out flower children of Islam, and that it certainly won’t "loom over" the Twin Towers site. There are people calling the building of the mosque a jihadist victory, a symbol of "Islamic triumphalism."

New York City isn’t the only place where there’s consternation over a mosque being built. It is happening in several communities across the nation, including Temecula, not far from here, and there was a fire a few days ago where a mosque was under construction in Tennessee.

Then there are the increasing number of Americans who believe that President Obama is a Muslim - as if that’s a bad thing. I was at the market the other day and saw a tabloid paper at the check-out stand with a large photograph on its cover of Obama wearing a white robe and a turban - "SHOCKING PROOF THAT OBAMA IS A MUSLIM!"

Even more disturbing and sad to me is that a number of mosques are cancelling their festivals - a big deal for children in particular - marking the last day of Ramadan, which this year happens to fall on September 11. This is a bit like cancelling Christmas morning, and it is being done because they don’t want people to get the wrong idea - that they’re celebrating 9/11.

It has been observed and lamented that it appears more and more that, contrary to the official rhetoric, America (and the West) is in a War on Islam.

Not unlike those who are against same-sex marriage saying they simply want to "protect marriage" when it is all too evident that they are against queers.

And meanwhile, Glen Beck and his rallying crowd, who more or less all loudly label themselves as Christians (there might be a few Jews, but that’s okay, because they’re in the Bible, unenlightened though they are) claim that all this, all this hate, is about "honor" and God.

I recently saw a production of "South Pacific," and I keep thinking of the song, "You Got To Be Carefully Taught," about how children learn to be prejudiced. It seems to me that it took some extraordinary teaching to get people to believe that Jesus espoused or endorsed all this bigotry and hate.

Either that, or it took a lot of people being scared shitless.