Editor’s Column – December 2007

This last weekend, we got our first snow storm—well, not really a storm, but enough snow that it made my […]

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This last weekend, we got our first snow storm—well, not really a storm, but enough snow that it made my coming into the house a real mess. Actually, the mess that my wheelchair brings into the house is my biggest headache concerning winter. Not counting the 10 minutes it takes my van to heat up enough to be somewhat comfortable. I count myself lucky. Winter heaps up the inconveniences and real barriers for many people with disabilities.

Beyond its difficulties, this time of the year really is beautiful. We know we will be getting together with our local friends, and somehow, someone you haven’t talked to in many years always ends up calling just to say “Hello.” Oh, presents are fun, too. I like the giving much better than the receiving. I know, what a cliché, but giving someone a gift is a whole lot easier than getting a gift and not knowing how to thank the person for doing such a wonderful, personal thing. It’s easier, too, than figuring out how not to say, “what were you thinking when you bought me this?” Hmmm. That’s all the holiday spirit (or anxiety?) that I can conjure up right now, but I truly do hope that each of you has wonderful holidays and that the person you least expect to hear from will call you just to say “Hello.” Those are the real gifts: friendships!

Advocating Change Together (ACT) and our former board chair, Mary Kay Kennedy, went with Liz Koltes and a few others to New York to help launch a new United Nations training manual on rights for persons with disabilities. The curriculum was developed by ACT and several other grassroots organizations. Is that cool or what! Great job, ACT! And thanks for your outstanding work in putting Minnesota on the map at the United Nations. Too bad that the present federal administration couldn’t see its way to be the first to sign and ratify the Disability Human Rights Convention. If you haven’t already, read the front page story. Don’t skip a word and get all the details of a story that can make us all proud!

A young man named Galen Smith came to my office a couple weeks ago to tell me about his weekend in Chicago at an ADAPT training. Many of you have heard about ADAPT’s tactics of nonviolent, get-in-your-face techniques for exposing the injustices faced by people with disabilities. As progressive as Minnesota is on disability rights, we do not have a local ADAPT chapter. Smith went to Chicago knowing that we didn’t have a chapter and came back full of enthusiasm to start one. My first response to Smith was, “yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it before.” But, the more I talked to Smith, the more I realized this guy was really motivated, psyched and committed. He has already put together one small training session to see about the interest for an ADAPT chapter in Minnesota. And guess what? The guy that said “yeah sure,” wasn’t able to attend. But I’ll be at the next one, and the next one.

I think it’s time for Minnesota’s political grassroots, disability-rights community to have an ADAPT chapter. We have developed the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, a fabulous advocacy lobby group that has done wonderful things for our community. I’m sure they would agree that having one more organizing tool in our toolbox would make their lives much easier. Also, for you youngsters—this is really fun stuff. Join up and protest like they did in the 60s and 70s—or better! Did you know that it’s thanks to ADAPT that we have accessible public transportation in the Cities and throughout the country? ADAPT’s “gang of 19” in Denver, Colorado, handcuffed themselves to city buses to force the public to recognize the need for accessible public transportation. Every time you see a lift come out of a city bus, you can thank ADAPT’s tactics of protest.

Here in Minnesota, there were some pretty prominent people in the disability rights community who held a sit-in in Governor Arne Carlson’s office that kept our PCA program on the books. Maybe Galen can get some of those folks to tell their stories as we build on a foundation of historical and effective activism.

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