Editor's Column - December 2014

At Access Press, as the year closes, we’re looking ahead to the January opening of the new legislative session. But December is also “awards month” at the Access Press news desk, and we’re pleased to give you highlights of recent awards events in the community.

Several disability support organizations close the year by bestowing honors on individuals and groups. The Arc of Minnesota, an organization that has been protecting the rights of people with disabilities for many years, held an awards banquet at their annual conference in November. Among the 12 awardees are many who are recognizable faces in the disability community. We were especially pleased to see Alicia Munson of Opportunity Partners receive the Luther Granquist Systems Change Award for her leadership role in last year’s successful 5% campaign.

NAMI Minnesota, which has advocated for people with mental illness since 1976, also presented nine awards “for outstanding efforts” at its November conference. Their Media Award was given to the Star Tribune, and Sue Aderholden, Executive Director of NAMI, honored reporter Chris Serres for his “wonderful job relating how Minnesota policies impact people with mental illness.” Reliable Medical, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary doing business in Minnesota’s disability community, has won the HME Excellence Award from HME News, the business newspaper for home medical equipment providers. It’s a very prestigious national award.

And of course, we’re still enjoying the glow from Access Press’s own Charlie Smith Award banquet in November. It was both moving and motivating to hear how Wendy DeVore and Christine Marble of Career Ventures have supported so many in the blind and blind/deaf and hard-of-hearing community to find meaningful work. Nick Wilkie of Metropolitan Center for Independent Living did a remarkable job as emcee; all of us at Access Press want to give him a shout-out for all of his efforts that evening. There are so many others that make the evening a social and financial success, and first among them are the Access Press staff and board of directors. The board, our staff and I are immensely grateful to everyone who donated and bid on items in the silent auction and raffle—especially Charlie Braun of Equal Access Homes, Inc. The Equal Access Homes’ week’s vacation at a Montana cabin brought in the highest donation in the silent auction.

The best part of any social event like the awards banquets is being with friends old and new. It’s always very exciting for me to see all the folks who knew and called Charlie Smith a friend. It’s also exciting to discover new organizations and interact with new people who are making extraordinary contributions to the disability community—in the tradition of Charlie Smith. Finally, we extend our applause to everyone who took part by helping others to navigate the event. It is the group effort that makes this banquet such a remarkable and memorable affair.

We’re glad to welcome back our old friend Luther Granquist this month for a History Note on “institutions for the defective.” It’s not an easy topic to write or read about, and for most it is definitely difficult to acknowledge that this is part of our history, and that this was how knowledgeable, educated people thought in 1888. As Cecil Gaines says in LeeDaniels’ The Butler, “Americans always turn a blind eye to our own. We look out to the world and judge. We hear about the concentration camps, but these [slave] camps went on for 200 years in America.” Institutions and cruel practices aimed at confining “the defective” went on for far too long throughout the world, and right here in Minnesota.

I hope that in another 125 years people will not regard our ethics, morals and methods as so unacceptably barbaric as Judge Rodney A. Mott’s seem to me. And yet, there’s also a part of me that hopes that advancements in medical care and ethics in another hundred years will make ours look harsh. Thank you, Luther, for helping us to recognize the great improvements our society has made; we should never forget how difficult it was for our ancestors and their brothers and sisters.

I hope everyone enjoys this month’s issue of Access Press and the upcoming holiday festivities. Haveblessed holy days (if they’re yours) and a safe New Year’s celebration. We’ll talk again in 2015.