Archive: January, 2008
My brother, who lives in North Carolina, comes to visit sometimes. He has been in a wheelchair since a car accident at the age of 18 (he is now 63). When I spend time with him I am humbled by his amazing serenity in the face of constant obstacles such as the ones you mention. To name a few: yes, the inaccessible restaurants, and bathrooms in those restaurants and other places in the city. Also, people who park or stop in front of curb cuts so he can't get up or down. People who won't get out of the way as he is coming towards them on the sidewalk. And the constant staring as though he is a freak. The hotels offering handicapped rooms, when he can't even get his wheelchair in the bathroom. I must confess that I cannot imagine being so patient and calm in the midst of constant barriers. My anger and frustration are almost incontrollable when I share these frustrating situations with him. But, my brother does not complain about these injustices.
The only thing that really bothers him, though, is the spit. I asked him why the spit. He said it gets on his wheels and then on his hands.
"Hi Dan, the message on my voicemail began. "This is Beth Sutter... I really appreciate your article, your commentary, 'Philadelphia is a rough ride for wheelchair users.' I thought you were very intentional in using the word 'wheelchair user' as opposed to 'wheelchair-bound' or someone being 'in the wheelchair.' "
How did I know a but was to follow?
Monday's column on Cliff Roberts' wheeling his chair through The Inaccessible City caused my phone to ring enough to think I'd hit a nerve.
"It's just as bad in the suburbs," said Barbara Quinn, 60, of Aston in Delaware County. She started by ripping into the nice man at her hair salon -- a brand new place in an expensive building.
"When I went in there, the first time after it was completed, the owner said to me, 'How do you like our building? It's all handicapped accessible.' " The owner proudly noted the elevator for those who can't climb stairs, the bathrooms with rails for those who need to support their legs.
Because the fresh start of the week means a blank sheet of paper for me. I've got two columns due and no plan.
Do I follow up on the Inaccessible City, the piece that's in today about Clifford Roberts trying to get into South Philly restaurants and shops with his wheelchair? Inky shooter Michael Wirtz made a cool video from my second interview with the violin-maker last week.
Thursday's column about the Wawa in the Northeast Philly that has a hugging problem prompted this email from Cindy Newman, which she allowed me to post:
As a recently retired law enforcement officer having read your column today regarding hugs at a local WaWa Store I was sadly reminded of an incident that occurred during my career. I was blessed to have spent the last 17 years working in S. Florida in a school-based policing program. We were a pro-active unit whose purpose was not just enforcement. We saw our students everyday, taught in the classrooms, built positive relationships with them outside of the arena of law enforcement. We were part of their everyday lives and I loved everyday I went to work with "my" kids.
We love it when a star shucks his handler and speaks his mind without a script.
David Stewart, the former Eurythmic, said this about Ringo Starr's walking off the "Live With Regis & Kelly" set yesterday after a producer ruled Ringo's performance would be too long for the attention spans of the viewing audience:
"Four minutes (3 minutes and 40 seconds, actually) seemed like an appropriate amount of time for a former Beatle. Mr. Gelman apparently felt Ringo's musical legacy should take a back seat to additional banter about the size of Ms. (Kelly) Ripa's derriere."
I haven't seen him in about a decade. The piece I wrote in November, 1998 was headlined 'Working the Wood While He Can." It was about this master violin maker in South Philadelphia whose muscular distrophy made each movement successively harder. He was doing painstaking work against the clock.
This time we're going to talk about what it is like to move about this region in a wheelchair.