Editor’s Column – July 2007

The last couple of weeks, summer has really hit us hard. The heat has almost been too much. I know […]

The last couple of weeks, summer has really hit us hard. The heat has almost been too much. I know I don’t have to tell any of you, but I will: please be careful in the heat. Heat exhaustion and hyperthermia come on so fast that many of us can’t get out of the sun quickly enough to keep ourselves safe.

The last few months, I’ve heard many unsettling stories about the taxicab situation throughout the Twin Cities. You’ve probably read some of the stories here in Access Press about the discriminatory actions that some cabdrivers have taken against people who use dog guides. Well, one of the newer twists is that certain cab companies have been charging a minimum of $20 to anyone that needs to use a wheelchair taxi (The standard minimum is $5.) The gouging has been resolved.

We’ve been working for a while with Ed Lecher and several others at the State Services for the Blind to get the schedule for the Radio Talking Book (RTB) printed in our Accessible Performances. If you haven’t heard about RTB, you’ll want to read about it. RTB provides a wonderful opportunity for everyone with a visual or physical disability to become, as they say, “well-read.” I had access to RTB back in the 70s, and I really enjoyed it; it’s a fabulous way to get the news. Some very professional volunteer readers read the local Twin Cities newspapers daily, as well as some of the other papers around the state (Fergus Falls and Mankato, for example). All the latest issues of national news magazines, like The New Yorker, Tech Wire, Reader’s Digest, Poetic Reflections, Teensight, and many others, are available. Even more racy things (like Playboy—for the articles!) will be read to you. And of course, don’t forget Access Press. Note that you can also now listen to RTB streamed on the Internet. You’ll need a password to activate it, but the way I understand it, the staff at RTB gives you the password pretty pain-free. Visit www.mnssb.org/rtblive/ By the way, RTB is always searching for new volunteer readers. Try it—maybe you’ll like it, and help all the rest of us get cultured.

Cliff Poetz and Mark Olson together authored an article about legislation to increase the wages for direct-support professionals. The legislation targets our PCAs with wage increases that would be funded by amending Title XIX of the Social Security Act (which is Medicaid). The funds would enable each state to directly increase wages to the PCAs who provide hands-on care and services to people with disabilities on Medicaid programs. The extra funds would not go to agencies. U.S. Representatives Jim Ramstad, Betty McCollum and Colin Peterson have signed on as co-sponsors of this bill. But we have some serious letter writing to do. Tim Walz (DFL congressman from the 1st district) voted to increase the minimum wage; he should be easy to convince. Keith Ellison (DFL, 5th district), seems only logical as well, given his positions on healthcare. John Kline (Republican from the 2nd district), as conservative as he is, should understand the need for people to make at least a livable wage. Michele Bachmann (R-6th district)…well, seven out of eight representatives would be excellent.

Then we only have to count on people in the rest of the states to target all their representatives. I’m sure there will be plenty of other disability organizations trying to convince elected officials that this is a positive way of spending taxpayer money, and that taxpayers will know that this is the right thing to do. I hope so, anyway: for your PCAs and for you,

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