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by Murray B. Schneps

April 26, 2017

On April 16, 2017, Sarah Garrecht Gassen, a columnist and editorial writer at the Arizona Daily Star and a contributor to the New York Times, wrote an article in the Arizona Daily Star entitled, "Disabling the civil rights of people with disabilities." I do not know and never met or spoken with Ms. Gassen but her article indicates that she gets it. In addition, she is very humorous.

Ms. Gassen jumps right into the midst of a sad and difficult truth that the developmentally disabled are neither considered to be human beings entitled to inalienable rights nor seriously considered to be worthy or relevant. She goads so-called “normals” saying,

"Oh, you pesky folks with disabilities who insist on being able to get around and leave your house just like ‘normal’ people" she wrote and added, "It's like you want to live your life or something. Silly you with your expectations that state and federal accessibility laws count."

Using her mind and pen like a scalpel, Ms. Gassen speaks the unspeakable that people with disabilities have no expectations for equal opportunities similar to those in the general population expected and received. Secondly, she explodes the fantasy that those with disabilities have the right to live their lives as they wish and makes it clear that the disabled cannot really expect the state or the federal government to apply the existing laws in their favor.

The writer is activated by the fact that the House of the Arizona legislature voted 38 to 22, is delaying handicapped persons from asserting their long standing statutory rights to sue a business for not complying with accessibility laws. The Arizonans With Disabilities Act and Americans With Disabilities Act enacted accessibility statutes requiring wheelchair ramps, specific parking spaces, signage, and a minimum of width of doorways.

The Arizona House Speaker explains that businesses should have time to fix violations before being taken to court. It's about "balance," he said. The Speaker lamented that accessibility regulations can be overwhelmingly costly and inconvenient and further urged that it is reasonable to ask people with disabilities can wait before exercising their legal remedies giving businesses time to make fixes. What is the Speaker saying? He is enacting legislation to delay accessibility regulations to support and protect the handicapped, because businesses require “balance” in order to protect the poor poor business owners from the disability. This can be a new definition for “chutzpa.”

Sadly and shockingly, those statutes have been in effect since the mid-1990s, during which time businesses have disregarded the law. Yet, businesses are getting additional time to raise new objections and delay established rights granted to the handicapped that must wait even longer.

The alleged rationale for the legislation is to protect businesses from frivolous claims. The handling of all "frivolous claims" can be completely handled by the courts during any litigation. Further, providing extra time to those who are required to comply with the law is idiotic. What would happen if businesses refuse to timely pay taxes, bills due and owing, salaries, and an endless number of legislative acts? Chaos is the simple and direct answer! Why is it reasonable to take more and more from those (like the developmentally disabled) who have less and less (like the developmentally disabled)?

This is like an epidemic that has spread across the land. Those who have the least and are the ones without the ability to protect and take care of themselves, are providing less and less support and assistance. Even without a thank you!! Those who have and can protect themselves seem to be jealous for the meager benefits the developmentally disabled and other disabled receive. Is it because some handicapped persons cannot earn a living or cannot take care of themselves or are making you feel uncomfortable or because expectations for them have been lowered to a level reduced from human being to something less?

When did we stop being generous and fair, especially to those who are disabled?

I hate to raise these issues but logic and the facts lead me to analyze the facts, as does logic and my training as an attorney in law school and then, becoming a litigator, led me to those necessary questions through critical thinking. Critical thinking teaches one to analyze the facts and circumstances without extraneous and unnecessary embellishment. Such embellishments, self-interest and emotions complicate and distort the facts and circumstances.

We are facing a great challenge as it has become difficult to understand what and why things are occurring in most, if not all, areas in life. Jobs, fear of wars, failure of politicians to achieve workable legislation, truth, ethics, the elderly, the poor, the discriminated, the Blacks, the Asian, the Mexican, those who follow the faith of Islam, our land and air and natural resources, the disabled and those who are attend mostly to, the developmentally disabled, all seem to be deteriorating and not in the best interests of those residing in the United State.

This is a really scary time but we can barely hear a national outcry. Will people who have been beaten down be able to fight for their rights and those of their children?

The stories I have been presenting to you have not been remote. The facts were found in the newspapers throughout the country. I have covered incidents in many States, in the Federal and State Courts, and they continue to pop out and the news is not good. At the best, the courts seem to give with one hand and take away with another. The basic attitude seems to be that the developmentally disabled are not equal to others, so called “normal” people. Whether that is the chicken or the egg, I have no idea. Further, I neither know nor care which it is. The fact is that the developmentally disabled are deemed to be of less value than “normal” people intertwined with a lack of expectations for them. I guess it just does not matter to many people. These days, it seems to me that fewer people seem to care or thrive for all appropriate services, required and necessary for the developmentally disabled.

While some are making efforts to turn the tide, several Federal and State Courts I have mentioned including Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania, are not protecting the rights of the developmentally disabled.

If the politicians and the general populace do not express an interest in protecting the humanity and equality of the handicapped people, who will protect them?

My answer would naturally be the parents, family members, advocates and those in the field. If you do not step forward and make a real commitment to protect your children from horrific, inhumane, isolation and deteriorating conditions, why would you think someone else will?

True it is that there seems to be a pendulum in life but the pendulum seems to swing in a long and painfully slow cycle great suffering and pain, felt by the innocent. The wait for the vindication of indisputable rights, is ever more painful and frustrating.

For me, I cannot stand the feeling of guilt. I am Jewish you know.

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