Letters: August 2013

Need Travel Details

Air Canada: Still one of the best disability-friendly airlines?

Air Canada: Still one of the best disability-friendly airlines?

None of the folks in the “Destination USA” cover story [June 2013] rented a wheelchair accessible van. As for my husband and me, we can’t travel without renting a van, and we travel a lot. I have years’ worth of information about how difficult, costly, stressful and frustrating it can be to rent a wheelchair van. But it is so worth it because otherwise, my husband couldn’t do his job. [For more on van rentals, see “Everyday Advocacy,” June 2013].

In the article, the travelers came up against a lot of challenges. Even though they all seemed to have at least a fairly good time, those challenges weren’t addressed or explained. It’s the details that people need to know about if they want to travel safely — (e.g., don’t ever travel with an acid battery! If hotels won’t send pictures of their bathroom layout, don’t stay there; find a place with employees who will help, etc.)
Leah Pileggi
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Travel Story Motivates
I wanted to congratulate Roxanne Furlong on her travel article [“Destination USA,” June 2013] and thank her for including my story. I shared it with our two grandsons! A job well done. We are just back from a successful trip to Germany for an international table tennis competition, and you have inspired me to put together notes and tips from our experience.
Cindy Ranii
Santa Cruz, California

Montana Misconception
The June 2013 “News Analysis” on doctor assisted suicide inaccurately stated that Montana’s Supreme Court made assisted suicide legal in 2009. No matter how many times we correct this misconception, people still continue to spread false information. The Montana Supreme Court did not legalize assisted suicide. It simply ruled that a person’s choice to die could be used as a defense by a physician if the physician was charged with homicide in assisting the person.

In addition, the analysis failed to mention that according to the laws as they now exist in Oregon and Washington state, our friend Dustin Hankinson would almost assuredly not be able to avail himself of their legalized physician assisted suicide provisions because due to his muscular dystrophy he would not be able to self-administer the prescribed drugs.

In the Baxter case decided by the Montana Supreme Court, Baxter went to court in 2008 asking for the right to physician-assisted suicide, and a district court said yes in December 2008.

The Montana Supreme Court made the above-referenced decision over a year later in December 2009. So while Baxter was claiming to be terminal from the time of his first filing, he was not legally terminal (having six months to live) at the time he filed his case in district court, at the time the district court made its decision, or at the time the Supreme Court appeal was filed. He did not meet the legal standard for having a terminal illness until six months before the Supreme Court decision was rendered. This was just one more example of the inability of doctors to know how long someone will live, and whether or not they will die within six months.

Here in Montana, we already have laws on the books that allow for pain relief, even if that level of medication might hasten death. There is simply no need to legalize assisted suicide here when we already have remedies that citizens can choose to use in concert with their health care providers.
Marsha Katz
Missoula, Montana

Be a Force for Change
Terry Hatton’s letter, “Name the Perpetrators,” in the June 2013 issue of NEW MOBILITY could have been written by us. The details were eerily similar. We, too, experienced the “left on a Northwest Airlines plane to be found and finally assisted by a sympathetic member of the cleaning crew” after a September 2007 KLM-Northwest flight home from Amsterdam to Los Angeles. We didn’t file a complaint or write a letter then (a mistake, we realize now) because we just wanted to forget the one bad part of an otherwise wonderful trip to Norway. As a granddaughter of Norwegian immigrants, I dreamed of traveling to the land of my ancestors to meet family there.

My husband Bryan and I had an unforgettable time meeting family in Oslo and seeing this beautiful country. Bryan is a person with a severe disability (C3-4 complete SCI), so we put a lot of effort into planning our journey. In our almost 25 years of marriage, 30 years together, we’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a fair amount of traveling to places across the U.S. and Canada. Our first flight was on Air Canada, from San Jose to Toronto. I was worried about everything going wrong. Fortunately for us, we couldn’t possibly have picked a better airline for our first air travel experience. Air Canada’s staff was well-trained, beyond courteous and highly professional. I hope that this is still true. Most of our other airline experiences have also been good.

We hope that by joining hands with others and speaking out with confident, well-reasoned voices, we can be a force for positive change in the airline industry.
Beverly and Bryan Gingg
San Luis Obispo, California

The Humble Innovator
I have just read and re-read Jenni Gold’s story about Ralph Braun [“Remembering Ralph Braun,” May 2013] and I think that she did a superlative job of describing a truly great guy and a person in my life who I’ll never forget. I was injured in June l97l and obtained my first Braun lift-equipped Dodge van in the fall of 1973 after fully realizing that I just couldn’t haul that E&J “Premier” out of a two-door car on a regular, safe basis. My first Braun-equipped van was really something — automatic door openers, automatic lift, wedge seat base — this was high tech! What a machine, but for a C6-7 quad I was independent. It has been that way ever since. Why? Because a guy named Ralph Braun put it all together for me and thousands to follow.

I never heard him speak ill of anyone. He was always a gentleman and respectful of any disabled individual who wanted to make something of themselves. He loved gadgets and inventions. He loved his giant scale remote control planes, but he really loved helping others out through his great adaptive equipment. He was tremendously honest, caring and a great, great unassuming guy. Everyone in the automotive adaptive equipment business should read his book and see where the business was and how he took it to what it is today. Now that’s a history book written in a very humble fashion, because that’s how Ralph was. I will surely miss him but will never miss or forget what he did for me. Thanks, Ralph, for what you did for all of us — you changed our lives forever.
Thomas E. Cusack,
Indian Head Park, Illinois

Opinions Welcome
EDITOR: We love seeing your comments on Facebook and on our website, but if you’d also like to spark conversations in the print magazine, please send letters to the editor to tgilmer@unitedspinal.org or 75-20 Astoria Blvd., East Elmhurst, NY 11370.

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