Editor’s Column – October 2008

For the second year, the Abilities Expo was held at the Minneapolis Convention Center in September. It featured many new exhibitors […]

For the second year, the Abilities Expo was held at the Minneapolis Convention Center in September. It featured many new exhibitors with a variety of products to showcase. There was excitement in the games and sports, like basketball, hockey and rugby. There was a plethora of outstanding seminars, with local presenters as well as national speakers. Again, all the major wheelchair vendors and manufacturers demonstrated new power chairs for young people and the elderly, as well as all ages in between. I had a laugh watching some young folks racing around the center, being chased by their parents. It was great to see them growing up with the means to be independent, and to express their own personalities thanks in part to new technologies.

I want to thank Luther Granquist for his contributions to History Notes. We have been getting many compliments, and encouragement to continue these glimpses into the past lives of the disabled. I think most of us find it interesting to learn more about the challenges of our sisters and brothers from decades earlier, and how we are truly indebted to them for their strong-willed tenacity.

Mike Gude reports about the METO facility in Cambridge and how some “historical” problems just keep recurring. Some of the incidents and conditions at this state-run facility were shocking, especially since we tend to think such things as using metal restraints to control the behavior of residents just don’t happen any more. This is just another example of the importance of dissolving long-term-care facilities in favor of community-based care and homes for individuals with disabilities.

I hope that our several pages on the upcoming elections will be helpful, and will give each of you a push to get to the polls. We’ve been writing about the importance of the 2008 elections for months now, and here we are, in the last weeks before decision day. Every election gives us a chance to ensure that our needs as people with disabilities are met with public policies and laws that protect and serve us. But we’ve never, in our lifetimes, had an election at a moment like this, when big changes in the economy are bound to mean big changes for federal budgets, state budgets, and healthcare funding. It doesn’t look like “big change” will necessarily mean “positive change.” But one thing’s for sure, the next four years are going to bring change. Who do you want to be leading as those changes come?

If you don’t follow politics at all, just try this. Ask yourself, which of these candidates is going to deliver healthcare change that will best contribute to my independence? That’s a question to ask about the candidates for President, Senate, and the House of Representatives. We’ve gotten some answers from them, but also check their Web sites, call their campaign offices, and then go vote for the one whose answers seem right to you. Take advantage of the rights that have been won for us by the pioneers in our community!

Need a ride to the polls? Have a ride to offer? Contact 1-877-NOV-2008 (Mai Thor) or ask a friend if they can offer a ride or need one. If we each pair up with someone else, we can be sure that the disability community’s voice will be heard on Election Day, TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2008.

One member of the U.S. Congress you won’t be able to vote for this year is retiring Congressman, Jim Ramstad. At the Courage Center Awards banquet, I was moved to hear him give a speech that reflected his career as a proponent for the interests of people with disabilities. He also recounted how he was proud to continue fighting for legislative changes that Paul Wellstone first sponsored to protect people’s mental health rights. Ramstad served as a Republican, but sounded that night like a true non-partisan leader, quoting John Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, and other human rights champions, independent of political party or “sides.”

I was lucky enough to be honored, along with two others, as a recipient of the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation’s community service award. The foundation also instituted a new award for caregivers this year, and it was great to see this award being given. I think there’s an important trend happening more and more, recognizing those who are giving expanded opportunities for independence to the people they serve. As for me, I’ll admit it was a thrilling experience to be awarded this prestigious honor.timbenjamincolor