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MAINSTREAM Magazine published a print version from 1975 until the final issue in December 1998/January 1999. The online archive includes, at present, selected features from the print magazines, as well as additional features. Chose a year and view the table of contents from the issues of that year.




From Mainstream Online news & commentaries -- 2001-2003



 Another apology...
Gray Davis of California is the latest governor to apologize formally for a long policy that led to the forced sterilization of 60,000 people with mental disabilities.
"Our hearts are heavy for the pain caused by eugenics," Davis said about the campaign designed to eliminate crime, "feeblemindeness," alcoholism, poverty and other problems blamed for degrading society.
Eugenics was practiced in more than 30 states between 1909 and 1964. Historians have pointed out that Hitler borrowed from U.S. laws in establishing forced sterilization on "undesirables".
Besides California, Virginia, Oregon, North and South Carolina have apologized for forcibly sterilizing their citizens.
It is interesting to note that Gov. Davis' apology comes at a time when programs providing basic benefits for people with disabilities are being slashed. It is an old adage: Watch not what they say, watch what they do.

-- Friday, March 14, 2003

What Would Justin Say?
The Illinois Attorney-General sued Walgreen's, the drug store chain founded by the grandfather of the late, great Justin Dart, Jr., for failing to provide adequate access to people with disabilities. According to an Associated Press report, "... Walgreens customers face 'daunting physical barriers,' such as steep ramps that could overturn wheelchairs. Certain buildings also have steel poles that are designed to keep shopping carts from leaving store property but prevent wheelchairs from entering."

--March 14, 2003


 Book Review

 Make Them Go Away: Away: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Reeve, and the Case against Disability Rights

 By Art Blaser

The final chapter of Mary Johnson’s Make Them Go Away: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Reeve, and the Case against Disability Rights is “A Strange Silence.”  Johnson explains that we assign disability “to the private realm” and “we ignore, or resist, efforts to make [disability] into a public issue…”  Make Them Go Away provides a wealth of evidence and argumentation for countering that ignorance, and for building the case for disability rights.

Johnson founded the Disability Rag and currently edits its successor Ragged Edge.  She’s written articles in Nation and New Mobility.  She mentions several Supreme Court decisions, including Toyota, Echazabal, Sutton, Garrett, Olmstead, and Cleburne.  She discusses the strength of the nursing home industry, “special” education, and inaccessible polling places.  In each case Johnson offers keen analysis.

Her book fills a void.  We’ve got Joseph Shapiro’s excellent No Pity, which chronicles the struggle for and eventual adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).  We’ve got narratives, my favorite of which is John Hockenberry’s 1995 autobiography, Moving Violations: Wheelchairs, War Zones, and Independence.  We have Ruth O’Brien’s excellent 2001 book, Crippled Justice: The History of Modern Disability Policy in the Workplace, examining elusive “progress” in employment policies.  But by demonstrating how the ADA is being undermined on many fronts in the Twenty-first Century Mary Johnson fills a void. 

Johnson explains how the undermining process has been aided by pundits such as John Stossel, John Leo, Doug Bandow, Edward Hudgins, and James Bovard, by celebrities such as Christopher Reeve and Clint Eastwood, by Congress, and by the US Supreme Court.  It began as the ADA developed from bill to law, continued as President George H. W. Bush (who’d signed it into law) by 1992 was promising reforms so that the “able-bodied worked,” and continued as the far right narrowly applied cost-benefit analyses to rationalize continued disability discrimination

Clint Eastwood is a master provider of “sound bites” that obscure more complex realities.  So the story that most Americans wanted to hear in 1999-2000 was “Eastwood wins in court by standing firm against disability activists, then works with Congress to rein in ADA excesses.”  Johnson offers evidence that this interpretation is simplistic.  Although the plaintiffs weren’t awarded damages, Eastwood was ordered to correct access violations at his bed and breakfast.  And at the Congressional hearings on the ADA Notification Act, Johnson points out that one of the “star witnesses” for the case against disability rights pointed out changes brought about by the ADA that can’t be easily discounted as the whining of a malcontent.

Johnson demonstrates that Christopher Reeve’s exposure doesn’t work to the advantage of disability rights.  Although occasional statements bolster hopes that a “new Reeve” is emerging, these hopes are consistently shattered.  Reeve’s recent spate of television appearances left me with a new appreciation of Dexter’s Laboratory and commercial breaks.  (I’m just kidding about the commercial breaks).  Johnson identifies several Reeve statements reflecting his prominence in the case against disability rights. 

Misunderstanding by celebrities, as Johnson points out, is shared by members of the US Supreme Court.  In wrongly construing the ADA as bestowing benefits, not rights, the Court more often is interested in limiting eligible disabled plaintiffs than in the realities of disability discrimination.  Since the ADA is enforced through litigation, continued discrimination suggests that rather than too much litigation, there’s been too little.

Five components of the case for disability rights are identified in the fifteenth chapter: “reasonable accommodation, demedicalization, universal design, customization, and integration.”  They’re responses to the realities of disability discrimination backed up by a wealth of anecdotes in the thirteenth: “segregation, exclusion, overprotection, [and] paternalism.”

There’s no pretense of offering “the last word.”  The magnitude of the case against disability rights dictates that the last word won’t be written for a while yet.  But by exposing the case against disability rights so often obscured by insistence “no one’s against the handicapped,” and by articulating the case for disability rights, Johnson has improved the odds that we may at last take disability rights seriously, and break the “strange silence.”

Make Them Go Away is available from Advocado Press.

-- Thursday, January 9, 2003 


There is abuse, and then there is abuse

The GAO reports that people are seriously abused in one out of five nursing homes in this country -- that's 20 percent. (Read Robert Pear's story in the New York Times online at (free registration required)).And much abuse is unreported and abusers often go unpunished. No wonder studies show people don't ever want to go into a nursing home. The Bush Administration doesn't want to increase staffing at nursing homes. In a way, that's a good thing. But the Adminstration wants market forces to bring nursing homes into line and be better and more efficient. The trouble is, of course, that the government itself has built in a bias toward nursing homes and pours billions of dollars into these awful institutions every year. Community and home-based services offer a much preferred alternative, but efforts to get these services established in law -- MiCASSA being the prime example here -- are blocked and stymied in the Congress. It couldn't be that the nursing home lobby is opposed, could it? Why would they want to preserve their privileged position when great alternative choice could be available? The real abuse is the failure of the political leadership of this nation to provide the people what they want -- real choice in getting the services that they need.



Access .... and Evacuation.

We have fought so long and hard for access that we have given less consideration to getting out, exiting, evacuation.

The attacks on New York and Washington on September 11 have sharply reminded us of the need for such concern. We have seen the reports of two men carrying a wheelchair user down 60-plus flights of stairs, of  a blind man and his dog joining the stream of refugees in the stairwells, and of the man with quadriplegia stranded on the 27th floor waiting for help that never came. And there were other reports of fleeing non-disabled people seeing disabled people stranded, a “roomful” one report said.

Were there any procedures in place for the safe evacuation of people with disabilities? Whose responsibility is it? The building owners? The employers? Are there any rules or regulations? The Federal Emergency Management Agency makes some recommendations (FEMA). Several years ago, MAINSTREAM published articles on disaster preparedness.

Several years ago, when I worked in the third-floor newsroom of the San Diego Union, someone thought about the need for an emergency evacuation plan. I think a drill was even run. Two people in the newsroom were designated to get me out, taking me from my wheelchair and carrying me down the stairs. We did not practice.

No emergencies requiring real implementation of this plan ever occurred during my years at the newspaper. But I did wonder whether it would work, at least for me. What if the designated colleagues were not around when the emergency struck? 

One wisp of hope: The newsroom, as mentioned, was on the third floor, well within range of fire-truck ladders. If I could hold on long enough for rescuers to arrive, I might survive. 

Those fire truck ladders are a handy measure for people with disabilities. I’ve operated on the principle of not working or living at any level higher than those ladders can reach. And I am not comfortable even visiting beyond those levels.

Now that people with disabilities are moving into the workplace in increasing numbers and as we move more visibly through the general activities of daily life, it is time to think seriously and hard about ways to ensure our safety in public and private places. Again, the notions of Universal Design should inform our efforts. When we address the requirements of public safety, it is essential that we include all of us.

 --William G. Stothers, September 19, 2001

-- written May 30, 2001