12th Anniversary Recollections

Not surprisingly, my favorite memory of Access Press is talking to Charlie a couple of years ago. I was struggling with
an MS exacerbation and the fear, depression and uncertainty that those always bring, along with my “inner tyrant,”
was making me despair.  I told Charlie that because of my constant struggling with my depression and MS, maybe I
wasn’t the right person to be writing the column on mental illness/brain disorders that someone who was doing
“better,” who was further down the road to recovery, might be more appropriate and that perhaps I should quit the
column and let him find a more insightful writer.

Charlie changed the subject totally, and asked about my years riding and racing motorcycles.  He asked me about an
interview I’d recently had with the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s quarterly motorcycle newspaper.  I told
him that they had interviewed me to hear about my 30 years of experience on big street bikes.  They especially wanted
to talk with me about motorcycle laws and safety a topic I had not felt qualified to talk about since I’d almost killed
myself a hundred times on my bike.

And Charlie told me, “But you’re still alive.”  I realized he was right.  I was an expert on motorcycle safety and laws
since I had spent my entire career riding in flagrant disregard of them.

Charlie said the same was true with sharing my insights about my struggle with mental illness. Because I was still
fighting, still climbing, my views would be even more connected to my heart. And I had not slipped between the cracks,
and I was not addicted to substances, not on The Street, not in the state hospital, or penitentiary, or graveyard.  I was
still alive.  Then I was an expert on living with mental illness, and I’ve never doubted my mission or my voice ever
since.

Pete Feigal

***

I have contributed articles on ADA issues to Access Press over the past three years.  The Minnesota Disability Law
Center has worked with Access Press and contributed articles since the paper’s inception.  On occasion, I have referred
persons with disabilities, who feel they are alone, to Access Press to find out that others have their same problems and
are working on their issues.  I personally refer to Access Press to keep up with legislative issues, the results of surveys
involving candidates and their support of disability issues, and current community news and events of interest to
disabled persons.  People in other parts of the country have said to me, time and again, that we are lucky to have a paper
that provides so much coverage of disability issues. Keep up the good work, Access Press.

Kathy Hagen
Staff Attorney
Minnesota Disability Law Center

***

My favorite recollection of the important role of Access Press is how central the paper was to unifying the disparate
disability groups to fight PCA and TEFRA (MA eligibility option for kids with significant disabilities) cuts in 1995 and
1996.  As the state tried to divide and conquer, Access Press and advocates were engaged in an end run around them
to galvanize and unify all disability groups to stick together and support each others’ eligibility for services.  The effort
was successful and has led to many other unified campaigns to improve the lives of persons with disabilities, such as
Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities.

Also, the paper has been a consistent voice on the dangers of general health care reform and managed care when the
needs of persons with disabilities aren’t given proper attention.

The paper has rightly seen its role as informing persons with disabilities, in specific and essential detail, so they could
do what needs to be done to advocate for themselves and participate fully in society.

Thanks to all Press staff over the years and CONGRATULATIONS on a job very well done!!!!

Anne L. Henry
MN Disability Law Center

***

Access Press has served as an anchor for me.  I’m not just referring to its valuable news coverage of the up-to-date
legislative reports and informative facts.  No, I’m speaking about the personal relationship I have had with the Smith
family that goes back to the 1970s.  I was privileged to work with this unique family on a group home project, the first
of its kind in Minnesota.

When I left my job at PACER in ’93, Charlie gave me a chance to write my first article for Access Press.  This became
a turning point for me.  For the next five years I wrote a column on Disability and Aging.  I enjoyed doing it because
writing is so much a part of me.

Now, as I look to the future of Access Press, I feel confident the paper is going to prosper for many years as a voice for
people with disabilities.

LeAnne Dahl

***

I was introduced to Access Press as a guest writer for the religion column.  Since then I have become a staunch advocate for this paper and its work.  Not only does Access Press have the only religion column in the country, it leads the nation in its depth and advocacy on disability issues.

I have had the privilege of getting a front cover story for Castle Heights, an award-winning playground with universal access throughout.  I have also had the privilege of writing articles on plays and art exhibits.  I have also had the pleasure of meeting several disability advocates because Access Press publishes and supports workshops on disability issues.

I was devastated by Charlie Smith’s passing but I know Charlie would be pleased at how the work is being carried on through Tim Benjamin.  Congratulations!  Access Press is a winner.

Linda Larson
Freelance writer
M.A.T.
Advocate

***

Dear Access Press,

Congratulations on your 12th anniversary!

Americans must understand what the Social Security programs of today mean to them and to the nation if they are to plan their own financial future and help shape the programs of tomorrow.  As a team, SSA and Access Press can inform the public about our [SSA’s] programs.  Thank you for assisting with Social Security’s mission of communicating the latest Social Security information to the American people.

Anne Lewandowski
District Manager
St. Paul Social Security Office
St. Paul PASS Cadre

***

Access Press has secured its place as a reliable and democratic vehicle for the multiple voices within this community of those interested in disability issues.  Charlie Smith was always interested in presenting diverse opinions reflecting various topics.  He used the forum to educate and to advocate for active participation in the decisions that impact our lives.  He dared to ask hard and challenging questions.  In his role as editor, he sought to present information fairly through balanced reporting.  He didn’t hesitate to scold, to push, or to encourage.  He knew there were many who could contribute to the analysis of both local and national issues.  He earned our trust and our respect.

Tim Benjamin continues this fine tradition while placing his own mark on Access Press.  Today we see the paper drawing out new voices on new topics.  Still placing public policy and those who impact it on the forefront, he assures that Access Press is inclusive of all the voices.

P.S.  If you haven’t done it yet, mail in your subscription and your donation to keep this vital newspaper alive and growing.

Ronna Linroth
Manager Adult/North Clinic Services
Gillette Lifetime Specialty Care Clinic

***

Access Press provides a valuable resource to Minnesotans with and without disabilities.  The depth of information is far beyond any other local disability newspaper.

Jeni Mundl

***

I started working at Access Press in May of 1994, and have worked with the paper on and off ever since.

I’ll never forget one time when there was a controversy boiling in the community (several years ago) about an issue that involved a large and influential local disability organization.  Lots of people were upset with the position that the local institution, which was also a major advertiser in Access Press, had taken.  One day Charlie said, “Well, I guess I have to write an article about how wrong they are.”  As we discussed the implications, I raised the question, “Do you think they might get mad and pull their advertising if you criticize them?”

Charlie was not surprised by the question, as I’m sure he had been thinking about it.  But he simply shrugged his shoulders, looked at me sideways, and said, “Well, somebody’s gotta say it.”  And that, basically, was the end of the conversation.  Charlie never forgot that Access Press was founded as a voice for the community, and would always insist on “saying it,” whatever the consequences.  (And, despite the strong and critical article that Charlie wrote, the paper did not lose any advertising as a result.)

Jeff Nygaard

***

I remember when I saw the first issue of Access Press at the public library, I was thrilled!  It was so empowering to
know that our community would finally have a means of connecting and communicating with one another.  I thank
Charlie Smith for having the courage and determination to take on such a huge endeavor, and I honor each year that
Access Press continues.

Nicole Roberts

***

I am amazed every time I see the latest issue of Access Press.  It just keeps getting better and better!  As part of the
Smith family, I’ve been around the paper since its inception, helping with mundane tasks from time to time, but mainly
just being a cheering supporter.  Now, in the past year, I have joined the Board and have had a chance to see firsthand
how the paper operates.

I applaud Tim Benjamin and his staff for all they do to not only ensure that Access Press will be on the street each
month, but that it will be well written, accurate, and financially stable.  These are not easy tasks for any paper, but AP
consistently masters them with minimal staff and a shoestring budget.  Thank you, Tim, for your dedication to AP and
the community.  You’ve brought AP to new heights this past year.

Bridget Smith