Over the last month we have had some pretty senseless legislative plans being deliberated in Washington concerning the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Sen. John McCain (R – Arizona) made sure that he came to a Senate hearing very shortly after major surgery, so that he could vote in favor of discussing the Republican health-care plan. McCain gave a pretty strong speech to his fellow legislators about the need for bipartisan efforts to get legislation passed that will improve the country.
McCain, along with two other strong compassionate, visionary senators, Susan Collins (R – Maine) and Lisa Markowski (R – Alaska), voted in opposition to their party’s scaled-down “skinny repeal,” a narrowly written Republican health-care bill whose failure ultimately derailed the major cuts planned in the Republicans’ “repeal and replace” agenda. Senators Collins and Markowski are true heroes who have stood their ground from the very beginning in voting against their party’s platform on the ACA.
In addition, McCain’s “no” vote was essential in stopping President Trump, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R – Kentucky), and Speaker Paul Ryan (R – Wisconsin) as they try to lead a plan to cut Medicaid and make many other devastating changes to the ACA —changes whose impact would be felt by both low- and middle-income Americans.
It’s not over by any means, but I would like to thank the ADAPT leadership and the hundreds of thousands of American citizens and ADAPT members who have protested around the country to protect our independence and make it is clear to legislators and to the public that some of the Republican health-care cuts to Medicaid would seclude, demoralize, institutionalize, and ultimately constitute a death penalty for, many people with disabilities.
Moving on in the alphabet (from ACA to ADA), we had a very successful celebration on July 26 for the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Hundreds of people took a walk from the History Center to the Capitol on a beautiful day. They were addressed by dozens of speakers, and everybody seemed to have a lot of fun talking and mingling. Thank you to all the organizers, especially Cindy Tarshish of ADA Minnesota, along with the committee members who worked months to make the event a success. And special personal thanks to Mai Thor for helping me at the last minute.
This last month I was fortunate enough to travel to London, England. What a remarkable trip and what an exciting privilege to see all the incredible sites from Stonehenge to Whitehall, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Hyde Park and Kensington Palace, museums, Harrod’s and Selfridges department stores, and more monuments than I can remember. I had afternoon tea, visited the street where the Rolling Stones and the Beatles recorded their first music, and witnessed a motorcycle/motor scooter parade protesting the government’s inability to stop a rash of “acid in the face” criminals stealing motorcycles. I met fantastic people, including a young woman in a wheelchair who was taking part in a conference on electrostimulation therapies for spinal-cord injuries. And finally, believe it or not, a tattoo parlor provided my own personal souvenir of this trip.
The accessibility in London was incredible. My hotel room was completely wheelchair accessible, with a roll-in shower and a free adjoining room for the caregiver. I rented a shower chair and a Hoyer lift that were delivered directly to the hotel at a reasonable price. There were few sidewalks that didn’t have curb cuts and the restaurants we went to always had, if needed, some kind of portable ramp to get me in the front door (some of the ramps were pretty steep, but there was always someone willing to help). All the cabs and buses were accessible, and so were most of the underground subway stations. The train that I took down to the little town of Salisbury where Stonehenge is was accessible and each train called ahead to the next station to have a ramp ready for a wheelchair user. The tour bus in Salisbury that took us out to Stonehenge was accessible, and so was Stonehenge itself.
I think the USA could learn from London’s push for accessibility prior to the 2012 Paralympics. Although our ADA is an incredible and evolving document, we often have stringent rules that make it more difficult to offer the respect, dignity, and inclusion that something like the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a U.N. disabilities rights treaty, may encourage. Dr. Patricia Morrissey, President of the United States International Council on Disabilities(USICD) recently wrote, “Whether we ratify the CRPD or not at some point— as a nation we stand for and must practice the principles that both the ADA and the CRPD reflect so clearly. These being, the opportunity and right of each individual with a disability to fully participate in and contribute to the communities, nations, and world of which they are a part. . . It is not enough for us to affirm, practice, and protect these principles in the U.S. We must lend a hand and learn from others in faraway lands.”
We’re going into the last weeks of summer. I hope everyone can take advantage of it and get out and have several more picnics or relaxing walks.