"Rewriting the Myths, Redefining the Realities"
From the Foothills
by Margi Ness
Freedom. Is that what it’s all about? Does bin Laden and his crew have such ferocious hate for us because we’re free? That is too simplistic for me. If we were a free but isolationist country with no involvement with others in the world, I doubt he would care much about our freedom.
But whether our freedom is the cause of the terrorists’ attacks or not, the loss of some freedoms is an effect of the attacks and the terrorists are no doubt enjoying that fact. As I’ve listened to coverage of their heinous acts and our responses to it, I’ve been concerned by some of the far reaching recommendations being considered that will limit our freedom. Some restrictions are clearly needed and we must accept them. Others are not waranted and appear opportunistic, with people pushing past agendas in the name of patriotism and unity. Even before September 11, there was concern about attempts to chip away at the Americans with Disabilities Act. While we may see no logical connection between the terrorist threats and the civil rights established in the ADA, there are areas where we should be watchful.
It wasn’t long ago that “for your own good” people with disabilities, like Clarence Miller [see Voices], were not allowed to live independently; blind people couldn’t live above the third floor because of the “risk” factor; certain employment opportunities and athletic activities were too “dangerous” for women and people with disabilities; battery-powered wheelchairs weren’t allowed on airplanes; and people using wheelchairs couldn’t work in a high rise.
The woman in the wheelchair saved from the 68th floor of the World Trade Center [see “Gaps Seen in Evacuation of Disabled”] should be an example for the need for better evacuation plans for people with disabilities - not an example for why people using wheelchairs shouldn’t be allowed to work in high rises. Battery-powered wheelchairs, like computers or cell phones, may need to be examined to be sure they are safe on an airplane, but not categorically denied transport. If the economy continues to slow and there is a glut of unemployed, we need to be confident that it does not again become “dangerous” for people with disabilities to work in certain jobs.
The disability community must be vigilant of efforts that will push back our movement and quelch the freedom of other minority groups, like Arab Americans, “for our own good” or “for the good of the country”. It is our patriotic duty to be involved, to question, and to act justly.
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Copyright 2002 A&H Publishing Corporation