Originally published September-October 1994
Landmark legislation though it be, the ADA has birthed a mighty backlash.
Unfunded mandate is the toxic new term for what mayors, governors and county councils have to waste good money on: curb cuts and lift-equipped buses, ramps and elevators, interpreters and Braille, all of our reasonable accommodations. We are perhaps the only citizens who find these accommodations reasonable. Even Bob Dole, a gimp in his own right, is on the down-with-unfunded-mandates wagon.
We can experience the backlash firsthand in parking lots, head to head with ordinary citizens. “You’re got all the good parking spaces,” they whine. “What else do you people want?”
Glad you asked, America. I took the question to some gimped-out buddies of mine.
Eleanor Smith wants every home in America to have basic access “so all of us can go visiting.” Ed Roberts says he wants a society that includes everyone.
Mort and Meg (not their real names) want to get married. “But since we’re both on SSI, we’d lose almost half our income,” Meg tells me. “Our parents call it living in sin. We’re disabled and they’re cool about that. But they want us to do this one normal thing.”
Dan Wilkins has a simple, impossible wish: “No meetings about me, no decisions without me, no nothing about me without me.”
Deb Fedor wants a ranch, with horses, where she’d hold an ongoing retreat for people with disabilities. “You come when you want to and say what you want and you get it. You have your privacy. You hang out and decide what you want to do with your life.”
What Terry Roarke wants is “immunity from prosecution for physically overreacting against alleged healthcare providers.” Bill Blue (not his real name) wants call girls on call. “In my book, that’s a reasonable accommodation for a single guy who doesn’t get around too good.”
Billy Golfus wants Brinks trucks to pull up in front of his door once a week and unload bags of money, and Barb Knowlen says she wants “a four-wheel-drive lift-equipped assault vehicle with a waterbed in the back. And of course I always want sex.”
Ellie Lopez wants four SSDI checks instead of one. “I might actually be able to live on that.” Talk about unfunded mandates, America, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Barry Corbet wants a health insurance policy that actually honors the idea of shared risk. “Why should I pay more every month for high medical costs and a so-called pre-existing condition when I bought the policy before I got the condition?”
Sandy Sims wants her husband Bill to be treated like a human being. Bill was an emergency room technician working to free a guy from a car wreck when another car ran him down. He uses a wheelchair and speaks only sometimes. Sandy says that now even his family points at him and laughs. “Respect is what I’m talking about,” she says, choking up a little after a holiday weekend with the family. We’ve got a long way to go on that one.
What else do we want? America, we want it all. Just like everyone else.
After sustaining a brain injury, Lucy Gwin was placed in a TBI rehab institution. Unable to be tamed, she escaped, being literally carried out by a friend. She sued the institution, won, and founded Mouth magazine, the perfect extension of her personality, wit and sense of outrage. Her writing was brash, brave, uncompromising and brilliant. Her twin passions were keeping people out of nursing homes and railing against assisted suicide, and her essays often found a home in NM.