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. . . which physically challenged men and women face every day Nedstat Counter

Visible 'celebrity' advocate
Christopher Reeve is
helping sensitize today's society to the urgency of medical research into spinal cord injury
and to broader issues involving the rights of the disabled to full opportunities for work and play.

Unfortunately for today's wheelchair users, there's more to it than a miracle 'cure' in the medical sense, as profoundly welcome as that would be:

While they wait for a scientific breakthrough, the physically challenged bear a disproportionately large share of the burden of unemployment, even in a time of general prosperity...
The problem is complex:
it's a devilish mix of
uninformed public attitudes
('the disabled can't do the job')
and legal disincentives
which have punished those who work by removing their medical safety net -- until the new work incentives improvement act, signed into law in late 1999.

Law Extends Coverage To Disabled Who Work

WASHINGTON, December 18, 1999 (AP) -- President Clinton invoked the example of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who steered the country through the Depression and World War II despite being hobbled by polio, as he signed a law letting millions of disabled Americans retain their government-funded health coverage when they take a job. Fear of losing Medicare and Medicaid benefits is a major barrier keeping disabled people from seeking employment. Many severely disabled people rely on those federal programs because they cannot otherwise afford expensive, specialized care. "This defies common sense and economic logic," Clinton said yesterday at a signing ceremony at the monument to FDR at the Tidal Basin. About 9 million disabled adults receive Medicare and Medicaid. It is not known how many of them might make use of the law's provisions. Income above a certain level disqualifies people from the federal programs. The law provides $150 million in grants to encourage states to let disabled workers buy into Medicaid, the federal-state health program for the poor. It also creates a $250 million Medicaid buy-in demonstration for people who are not so severely disabled that they cannot work. It extends, for 4 1/2 years, Medicare coverage for those in the disability insurance system who return to work. Disability beneficiaries returning to the work force would get a voucher for purchasing health care services--either private or government.

Disabled shoppers sue Federated, Macy’s

MIAMI, December 23, 1999 (AP) — Department store aisles packed with merchandise are supposed to increase sales, but disabled people who say the crowding keeps them from shopping at some Macy’s stores have filed a lawsuit. Among other accessibility requirements, the Americans with Disability Act requires main store aisles to be 36 inches wide. ``Particularly at this time of year... the aisles are so crowded that the footage in many aisles has been narrowed to 17 inches,’’ said Phyllis Resnick of Miami Beach, vice president of Access Now, an advocacy organization. The holiday timing of the lawsuit was accidental, Ms. Richard said. It follows an October decision by a federal judge in San Francisco who ordered a Macy’s store there to improve accessibility.

Yankees, NYC Settle Disabled Bias Suit

NEW YORK, December 13, 1999 (Reuters) - The New York Yankees agreed on Monday to settle a federal discrimination suit by vastly increasing the amount of seating for wheelchair-bound fans and providing a choice of ticket prices to the disabled. Prior to the settlement, 44 pairs of wheelchair and companion seating locations were provided at Yankee Stadium, which seats more than 50,000. A dozen of these were sold at the highest ticket price level and none at any of the lowest three ticket price levels. Under the accord, the number of these locations will be increased to 400 pairs and will be dispersed throughout the lower levels of the stadium . Previously, seating for those in wheelchairs ranged from $26 to $50. Under the settlement accord, prices will range from $8 to $42.50.

RECOMMENDED READING: A recent Louis Harris poll, released by the National Organization on Disability, provides statistical insights into the gaps that divide so-called "able-bodied" America and people with disabilities who share their same dreams and talents.

Hand controls, curb cuts, and lightweight chairs don't help much when employers won't consider hiring a disabled but fully able worker.

The visibility of wheelchair sportsmen like John Davis of Vail, Colorado, above, aided by the work of competitive wheelchair designer John Castellano, will help erase many misconceptions about people with disabilities. But often it takes legislation and active advocacy to make wider opportunities happen.

We can't stop until everyone is invited to the dance!


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