His legacy is one of disability-focused journalism 

by Jane McClure, Editor 

Tim never liked writing obituaries for Access Press. When we’d lose a valued disability community member he’d sadly remark about shortened life expectancies for our community and his own time on earth. I thought about that when writing his obituary this summer. 

Tim really loved the life he had with wife Lynda Milne, other family members and friends, and at Access Press. He wanted to do as much as he could in the time that he had. 

Tim and I had a solid working relationship for more than a decade. We’d sometimes go back and forth about things, which is what work in a newsroom is about. 

Coverage of our issues is often from a pity focus or “gee whiz, this new device will change your lives.” We know that’s not reality. 

Tim really disliked news stories that had a pity angle or featured what we call “inspiration porn” and we’d debate the merits of these with other staff. After a long back-and-forth over a new Mattel doll, our code phrase for such “news” became “Barbie in a wheelchair.” 

He didn’t want woe is me stories, but he also wanted the unvarnished truth. When a now-defunct disability blog was running a sunshine and roses disability pregnancy journal, we sought out our friend Mai Thor to write about her reality of being pregnant and disabled. It was unflinchingly honest and at times very funny. It was how our lives as disabled people are. 

As people with disabilities, limitations are always there to overcome. One day I heard a steady stream of very mild expletives coming from Tim’s office. Perhaps his head-mouse or voice-activated software acted up. I finally stuck my head in his office and joked, “Lassie! Get help! Timmy fell down the well again!” We laughed and laughed. We always could laugh about this kind of thing. 

We also had to have a sense of humor as we dealt with too many people who treated us as objects of pity or, as we’d put it, the slow kids. We often hosted office guests who were surprised to find two articulate people with disabilities who could speak clearly and eloquently about their lives and work. 

There are so many other stories – our ambivalence with the complicated logistics of the annual Access Press Charlie Smith Award banquet, heading off to the capitol, working with writers and talking at length about the issues affecting our readers. I miss all of that. 

As a journalist who lives with disabilities, Access Press has been a life-changing experience for me as it was for Tim. Too many of us don’t get hired, even now. We have to fight for accommodations and how those could make our work easier. Yet we are the best at telling our stories and presenting our issues. 

If Tim should be remembered by readers for anything it is this: Looking at what is now a catastrophe with direct support staff in our community, Tim was our canary in a coal mine. He sounded the alarm before most news media realized we even had a staffing crisis brewing. It was his lived experience. 

When I began working at Access Press, I knew all of Tim’s staff. I knew who had children, who held two jobs, who was studying for a medical trade and on and on. 

That wasn’t true over time. I didn’t know if we’d get the on-the-ball fellow or the one who would steal the office vacuum cleaner. I didn’t know when Tim would be able to show up at work or even get out of bed. He didn’t have consistent care and that affected his quality of life greatly. 

One of Tim’s legacies is this: We Minnesotans with disabilities need to be ever vigilant. We need to defend and protect everything that adds to the quality of our lives. That’s what he would want us to do. 

Donations to Access Press can be made in Tim’s memory, at https://accesspress.org/donate-now/