Letters January 2013

The real Mark O’Brien and Susan Fernbach: In love.

The real Mark O’Brien
and Susan Fernbach: In love.

The Sessions: Hats Off!
I had the fun privilege of being in the audience of the premier showing of The Sessions, then called The Surrogate, when it played last January at the Sundance Film Festival [“Sex Surrogacy and Disability on the Silver Screen,” November 2012]. As a paraplegic for 47 years, I have become a bit cautious, OK, maybe even jaded and cynical about media and movie portrayals of disabled people. I was heartened when Ben Lewin, the director and screenwriter, came on stage before the screening, as I could see he had a disability.

Beautifully nuanced, his screenplay used no hammer to pound the message home. I looked around and as far as I could see, I was the only other person using a wheelchair in the audience other that those affiliated with the movie.

When the movie finished, the entire audience of 1,300 people rose to their feet (except for the few of us who could not). I knew I was impressed, but had no idea how all these nondisabled folks would react. Lewin, his wife Judi, as well as Helen Hunt, John Hawkes and William Macy all took the stage. The audience respect and appreciation for a job well done was obvious as Lewin told us the back story of the film and the stars answered questions. Lewin also acknowledged the supporting cast as well as the real-life “Cheryl” [Mark O’Brien’s sexual surrogate], who attended. I had goose bumps at the whole experience. My hat is off to all involved, including NEW MOBILITY, for the well-written article. I hope the wider theater audience is as discerning as the Sundance one.
Elizabeth Fetter aka “Buffy”
Park City, Utah

Informed and Impressed
I received my copies of November’s NM just before leaving for a family gathering. Every single person here, all nine of us, pored intently over the cover story on The Sessions and came away informed and impressed. It also made talking about the movie and its unusual subject matter a breeze.
Susan Fernbach [portrayed in the movie]
Fort Bragg, California

Outdoors Restores Soul
Thank you for the article on outdoor recreation [“Outdoor Recreation: A Path to Self-Esteem,” September 2012]. As a polio para who walked with long leg braces and crutches for over 65 years and is now transitioning to a power wheelchair, I can attest to the value of outdoor recreation. I learned to camp with the Boy Scouts and enjoyed camping until it just became too difficult. The swimming merit badge encouraged me to ask to join the swim and water polo teams in college after having no PE in high school. Even before the Paralympics, I swam competitively in college. With no kick and a weak left shoulder, I once came in next to last, beating one nondisabled swimmer in a meet!

Being comfortable in the water led me to take up canoeing. Flat water canoeing was an important part of courting my wife. For several years I used a one-man raft (kayak-type ducky) in Class II white water. The American Canoe Association (www.americancanoe.org) has an excellent adaptive paddling program. In a canoe or kayak, I have the same mobility as anyone and have seen deer, beavers, rabbits, turtles, and garfish.

Getting outdoors always restores my soul, and I encourage everyone to give it a try. Plan ahead and find a support group to get started.
Warren Peascoe
Vienna, West Virginia

Travel Tips
Here are some additional thoughts for traveling to the Florida Keys [“8 Air Travel Tips for Higher Level Quadriplegics,” www.newmobility.com]. As a C5 quadriplegic myself, I have flown to Key West numerous times. The planes that fly in and out of there are smaller than your traditional jets. Therefore, your luggage is limited, but under the Air Carrier Access Act, you may bring all necessary equipment and thus override the two-bag limit.

Also, the only hotel in Key West with accessible transportation is the DoubleTree. They are great people and have shuttles going downtown on a regular basis, which ensures equal access to city activities. They do also have a few wheelchair cabs within the city.
JR Harding
Tallahassee, Florida

ADA No Help?
“Grumpy Grocery Manager” [Everyday Advocacy, November 2012] reminded me of my experience with Kroger a few years ago. I had been shopping there for 10 years. I use a power chair and they had an employee go shopping with me; my husband would then pick me up. One day the manager waited for me to get in the van and then approached my husband and told him that they could no longer help me because it took too long (about 30 minutes). Not only was the way he did it cowardly (he should have talked to me), but — I thought — illegal.

My local independent living center told me the grocery is not legally bound to help me, but it’s good customer service. I received the same answer from the Southeast ADA Center. I wrote to the corporate headquarters of Kroger and they informed me the individual stores can do as they please.

After this, I decided to go to Food Lion instead, and they have been very accommodating for about two years now.
Rosemarie Buscemi
Garner, North Carolina

Another Van Ripoff
In regard to “Ripoff Redux” [November 2012 Bully Pulpit], we bought a new Ford Windstar minivan for our daughter to drive from her wheelchair and had it converted by Care Concepts, a company located in Phoenix, Ariz. It was shipped to us in Seattle, and while driving it off the car lot, we had problems. It was in the repair shop for two years when we decided to sue the company for damages.

We won the lawsuit, but they declared bankruptcy after the verdict, so we never received a dime, just a lot of worthless stock certificates. I checked and the company is no longer doing business under the Care Concepts name, so hopefully those guys aren’t out there taking others to the cleaners. We as consumers need to be forever vigilant.
Leslie Waters
Seattle, Washington

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