8 04 2008

Fighting for their freedoms

By Cindy Votruba

Independent – Southwestern Minnesota’s Daily Newspaper

April 8, 2008

http://www.marshallindependent.com/page/content.detail/id/500742.html?nav=5015

Marshall — Disabilities activist Kelly Buckland said he’s been kicked out of the best restaurants in Boise, Idaho.

Buckland was one of the speakers at the “From My View: Four Candid Personal Views on Disability and Racism” conference Monday at Southwest Minnesota State University. The conference, which is sponsored by the Southwestern Center for Independent Living and the SMSU Office of Cultural Diversity, looked at parallels between disability and racism issues.

Other speakers included Patricia Morman, a longtime Civil Rights advocate, Dan Snobl, director of physical medicine/disabled student medical services at SMSU, and John Morman, assistant director of the Cultural Diversity Office at SMSU.

Buckland is the president of the National Council on Independent Living and is the executive director of the Idaho State Independent Living Council.

Buckland said he likes attending state and local conferences on issues of disability.

“This is really where the work gets done,” Buckland said.

Buckland said he suffered a spinal cord injury when he broke his neck in a diving accident on July 26, 1970.

And in 1990, to the day, a significant event happened for people with disabilities, Buckland said.

“The ADA (American Disabilities Act) was signed on the 20th anniversary of me breaking my neck,” Buckland said.

During the last 37 years, Buckland said he’s experienced many kinds of discrimination because of his being in a wheelchair.

“I’ve been kicked out of the best restaurants in Boise,” Buckland said.

He said he was also kicked out of theaters, being told he was a “fire hazard.”

Some believe independent living advocates should strengthen the ADA, Buckland said, and some believe the issue should not be opened up in the political environment.

“We should have these discussion, we should point out these different views,” Buckland said.

Quoting Justin Dart, the man who is the “Martin Luther King Jr.” of the disabilities rights movement, Buckland said, “our very right to live is under attack.”

“Those words are even more true today when Justin Dart spoke them 12 years ago,” Buckland said. “We are being attacked by all three branches of government…we must fight for the freedoms we have.”

Buckland said he’s noticed the similarities between the Civil Rights movement and the disabilities rights movement, that the disabilities rights movement grew out of the Civil Rights movement.

And like how the Civil Rights movement was started in getting black people to the front of the bus … Buckland said.

“The disability rights movement is about getting on the bus,” Buckland said.

Disability rights activists have done a lot of work to get people with disabilities more freedoms, including the ADA and Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Buckland said.

“Yet so many of our brothers and sisters are still locked up in nursing homes,” Buckland said.

Buckland showed a video made by the Boise State University Cultural Center and the BSU Disability Services. Students talked about their experiences with disabilities and how they are treated. One of the students has said he wouldn’t trade his disability for anything.

Ryan Gregoire agreed with the student who wouldn’t trade his disability because he’s learned so much that he wouldn’t have known before.

“I guess I’ve learned a lot from my accident,” Gregoire said. “I understand other people now.”

Ron Kack said he’s been in a couple of accidents. He said he was working at a construction job and his supervisor had noticed he walked with a limp. Kack was told to go home because the supervisor was afraid something would happen to him.

“I performed the job great,” Kack said.

When he was an undergraduate at Boise State University studying social work, Buckland said one of his college professors who is involved with Civil Rights work told him that he didn’t have any business in her class or social work altogether.

“And that is coming from someone who is in Civil Rights work,” Buckland said.

Larry Montello noted how people tend to separate themselves from those with disabilities.

“We need to connect with all people directly,” Montello said, adding that making eye contact is one of those ways.

Montello said that many people with disabilities can do most things on their own.

“(We should) treat people like people,” Montello said.

Attendees also discussed other forms of discrimination when it comes to disabilities, such as education, accessibility and employment.

There are still many forms of oppression and issues happening today for people with disabilities, Buckland said.

“We still involuntarily sterilize people with disabilities,” Buckland said. “Did you know that? Did you know that’s legal?”

Disabled people getting married is another form, Buckland said, which includes loss of benefits.

“We really need to get everybody involved in our movement,” Buckland said.

Attitudes are still our greatest enemy,” Buckland said, and advocates are working to change those attitudes and stereotypes.

“(We need to) work together and carry the message to every state, every county, every city and every street corner,” Buckland said.

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