Editor's Column - October 2005

The second natural disaster in a month hit the gulf coast in September. The devastation, as we all know, was extraordinary. During hurricane Katrina the mainstream media used pictures of people with disabilities and seniors but did not focus much on their real challenges. It seemed to me that most of the news media initially focused on the looters and on the outstanding efforts of police, Coast Guard and other rescue units in plucking people off roofs of flooded houses. And then began the blame game. Then, with hurricane Rita, fiascos happened again. This time more people were evacuated but the roads were not capable of moving traffic and the gas stations were not supplied with needed gasoline. And, again the blame game; why wasn’t there enough gas for everyone, why weren’t sufficient evaluation routes available? In both events, some of the painful and deadly effects on seniors and people with disabilities were shown on mainstream media.

We received a letter addressing some major issues about the hurricanes and their aftermath.

What are your thoughts about the effects of these disasters on people with disabilities? Let us know.

The Hmong community is growing and with that growth the number of people with disabilities who are new to Minnesota is increasing as well. This month we highlight some of the cultural differences these new Minnesotans encounter, and we look at the needs of the immigrants and their children. This article is being published in both English and Hmong. We will continue to publish additional articles about other immigrants in their own languages.

Many thanks to all the folks who donated to Access Press through The Headwaters Foundation’s “Walk for Justice” on September 18. The weather was great for a walk and roll through the streets and parks of Minneapolis. The camaraderie among all the organizations was wonderful to see and it gave many of us a great boost in feeling that we can make a difference in society’s view of what is fair and just—and even have fun at the same time. Thank you, Headwaters Foundation, for your 10 years of work in organizing this incredible event.

For most of attorney Luther Granquist’s life he has been a great friend to all people with disabilities. Luther is not someone who would ever describe his efforts as extraordinary, yet throughout his career, his work at the Minnesota Disability Law Center has been consistently over and above the “call of duty.” Luther has always been there for anyone who was not, as he might put it, getting a fair shake. I’m one of many Minnesotans who would not have had the opportunities I’ve had or be healthy and working today without this man’s dedication and efforts to advocating on my behalf. I can’t imagine where our entire community would be without the behind-the-scenes and frontline efforts of Mr. Luther Granquist. Thank you, my friend, and enjoy your retirement!

Will Chief Justice John Glover Roberts, Jr. be trouble for people with disabilities? Judge Roberts’s remarks at his confirmation hearing would suggest to me that he would try to narrow the interpretation of the ADA. As a lawyer in the Justice Department and as Deputy Solicitor General, Judge Roberts voted to deny Medicaid recipients the right to go to court to enforce their entitlement to Medicaid benefits. Roberts constantly pushed to restrict the rights of individuals and to enforce laws where Congress did not explicitly state that individuals had the right to sue, which included Medicaid. We must advocate for a more mainstream thinker for the replacement of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. This appointment could ultimately be the life or death of the ADA as we know it.

Hope to see you at the Charlie Smith Awards on November 4, 2005.