My colleague Bob Vogel sent me a disturbing article about how some opponents to Texas attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott are questioning whether the man really is a wheelchair-using paraplegic. They’re calling themselves “Wheelchair Truthers,” possibly as a counterbalance to the “Birthers” who refuse to believe President Obama is an American no matter how many times he releases his birth certificate. And their claim that Abbott is not really a paraplegic is just as ridiculous and just as rooted in prejudice as the Birther nonsense.
The article, “Wheelchair Truthers now Demand Texas Republican ‘Prove He is Paraplegic,’” is published on The Daily Caller, which is to conservatives what the Daily Kos is to progressives. That is to say, there’s an obvious bias in the articles and so it’s not surprising that a little bit of research showed the “Truther” story is, indeed, being blown out of proportion. In fact, there’s some evidence that Abbott’s supporters are fanning the flames, as reported in “Group Claims Video Shows Davis Backers Mocking Abbott,” an article in The Texas Tribune.
But the fact remains there are claims to blow out of proportion and there are flames to fan. Somewhere, some folks in Texas are so lost in their ableism that they can’t believe a wheelchair user can do all Abbott’s done or be all Abbott is.
So, Wheelchair Truthers, let me put your tiny little closed minds at ease: New Mobility ran a cover story on Greg Abbott this past November, and in that article we published this photo of Abbott taken while he was still in rehab:
And this eye-witness account of what Abbott was like in rehab is in the same article:
A close and reliable source to Abbott’s recovery and precipitous rise in Texas politics is Lex Frieden, a man with impeccable credentials in the national disability community. Now a professor of Biomedical Informatics (translated: the marriage of high tech and health care delivery) and Rehabilitation at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, Frieden was a central figure in the passage of the ADA in 1990. He has been the chairman of the National Council on Disability, sworn in by the second President Bush, chairman of the board of United Spinal Association, namesake of the annual Texas Lex Frieden Employment Awards, and an advocate on many fronts in the fight for disability rights. After himself becoming paralyzed in a car accident as a college student, he rehabbed at and is now associated with the same facility — TIRR Memorial Herman Hospital in Houston — where Abbott also rehabbed. Frieden, it’s safe to say, has a high regard for the content of Abbott’s character.
“His therapy paradigm,” Frieden says about Abbott, “was to never stop working. TIRR is an exceptional facility. It conditions people to deal with a disability as a kind of problem and approach it with normal problem-solving abilities. Abbott was essentially able to put the whole issue of his disability in the back of his mind … he stayed busy in the hospital. We had to install a second phone line in his room.”
There you have it — both a photo of Abbott in rehab and an eye-witness account.
Another part of these so-called “Wheelchair Truthers” claim is that no man with an injury as severe as Abbott’s could possibly father a child. This uneducated and ignorant assertion has me more incensed than the other! Are the people making these claims fertility specialists? Have they taken the time to listen to the stories of the men who sat in those offices and conferred with those doctors and done the things that some must do to father children? Obviously not, or they’d not only know better, but they’d show some respect for the man and his family.
So dear so-called Wheelchair Truthers,
Maybe you hate Greg Abbott’s politics. That’s your inalienable right as an American. Go at him — attack him on the issues, build a strong case for your own candidates! But don’t use your prejudices against disabled people to justify your dislike for the man. Stop giving in to bigotry.