We are closing in on the end of summer. Soon it will only be a memory—of sweltering heat and itchy mosquito bites—as we are bundling up in mittens and scarves, running from our heated house to our heated cars. The state fair is our one last hurrah in the summer sun, and we at Access Press hope to see you there. This month, we are featuring an article on the accessibility of the 10-day-long event. Plan your ride, your parking and always take plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Those precautions are even more important than bringing a cart full of money to purchase all your snack items on a stick. It sounds a little old-school, but you really might want to plan your day and the order you want to go to your favorite exhibits. Otherwise, you might find yourself missing the things you want to see and spending a lot of time seeing things you have little interest in. Think, too, about which cool spots you might head to if the weather turns out to be uncomfortably warm. You don’t want to end up waiting for EMS workers because you got overheated. One place you will not want to miss is the Education Building, where the State Council on Disability sponsors a table, and many organizations will be staffing it again this year. Stop in and say hello; it is very possible you will run into some old friends—or make new ones.
We have a lot happening politically, nationally and in our state. The presidential and many federal legislative elections are around the corner and heating up as we move into the peak campaigning season. Locally, the two state constitutional amendments are in strong contention; you’ll definitely want to find out the latest news on each amendment prior to going to polls. The wording of each amendment is critical, and since they both introduce new requirements, it can be hard to remember which way a yes or no vote goes. The language of the titles of both amendments is now in round two of battles at the state Supreme Court. You will want to know ahead of the time what exactly the language means and what your vote will mean. There are many informed advocates on both sides of both issues who will gladly help you understand the language to help you make the appropriate decision for you. Always listen to both sides of the debate, especially concerning constitutional amendments because they are so hard to reverse if we get it wrong. Both issues will affect people with disabilities and other minorities in a big way, so stay informed and try to evaluate the ramifications of voting either way.
The Olympics are on and there are many events, especially the swimming, diving and gymnastics, which I enjoy—despite having acquired my disability in the course of taking my last dive in 1974. How could we not watch and cheer on Michael Phelps, who seems to be dominating the swimming events and is being called one of the greatest Olympians of all time? He has won the most medals of any Olympian, and that’s an accomplishment for a lifetime. In women’s gymnastics, the gymnasts are so young and so talented and so extremely strong that it’s hard not to be impressed by their almost magical abilities on the uneven bar, vault, and floor exercises and by the young gymnasts who can do so much on the 3.9-inch width of the balance beam. And who could not root for Gabby Douglas, who won the team and individual gold in women’s gymnastics and became the first gymnast of color to take these prestigious titles. Douglas is a true pioneer at the age of 16.
It has been interesting to follow the coverage of Olympics runner Oscar Pistorius, who will run in the 4×400-meter relay on carbon-fiber prosthetic legs. Born with the disability of no fibula in either of his legs, he had leg amputations when he was 11 months old, and has always used prosthetics to walk. There are at least two other Olympic athletes who have vision disabilities. South Korean Im Dong Hyun is the archer who set the first world record in this year’s Olympics. He has 20 percent vision in his right eye and only 10 percent in his left. Natalia Partyka of Poland is playing table tennis in her second Olympics even though she was born with no forearm or hand. They make us all think about what’s a disability, what’s a super-ability (do Pistorius’s prosthetics give him an edge over “normal” runners?), and what’s “normal.” Maybe the mainstream is going to learn what we know: we all are a combination; we all have disabilities, super-abilities, and we’re all pretty normal.