Sunday, October 23, 2011

Disability Committee Resignation

This weekend, I finally resigned as a member of the Casa Grande Mayor’s Committee on Disability Issues, as detailed in the letter below. While I explain the reasons in general terms here, the personal issue that made me finally decide to take this step involves the fact that no matter how much I tried over a number of years, I could not get anyone on the Committee to understand the need for a greater variety of electric cart services in the largest stores around town.

In the past, I wrote an article series explaining the problem for my column in the Arizona City Independent/Edition. In the next day or so, I’ll post that series on this blog, so watch for it. Meanwhile, here is the notice I just sent to the Mayor of Casa Grande, members of the City Council, and members of the Mayor’s Committee on Disability Issues:

To Whom It May Concern:

After much careful thought and soul-searching, I’m forced to resign from membership on the Mayor’s Committee on Disability Issues.

This decision does not mean I’m going to stop writing about issues affecting people with all manner of disabilities, which is only one of the vital social issues I’ve discussed in my earlier newspaper and online columns, and now in my Peace Blog:

I feel this Committee’s focus is too narrow, concentrated almost entirely on people with a couple of the most obvious disabilities, while virtually ignoring the needs of citizens with other conditions, especially hidden disabilities affecting millions of people, like me.

While I know it’s impossible for anyone to work on all the issues, I’ve tried to educate my readers regarding a wide range of disability issues in my work as a columnist and blogger. That’s why I don’t feel it’s an effective use of the Committee to simply repeat well-known and understood messages year after year. Since I want to help people with a variety of needs and find support for my own needs as a disabled person, participation in these activities is a waste of my time and energy, which are extremely limited because of lifelong chronic illness.

I would love to see Committee members adopt at least one new issue each year, learning and spreading the word about it throughout that year. Among the many groups that could benefit from this attention are students with learning disabilities, prisoners with untreated and often undiagnosed mental disabilities, seniors with age-related disabilities, and numerous people in the area whose lives are limited by the effects of chronic illness, like me.

As part of this broader focus, I believe it would be beneficial for the Committee to organize an annual public gathering in which people affected by that year’s subject condition(s) present information about their situation and follow up with a question-and-answer session in which they can better educate audience members.

In addition, I would like to see at least some member of the Committee respond quickly when any issue is brought to the attention of the Committee. And when action is finally taken, I hope that if one step has little or no effect--and indeed, the situation continues to worsen--Committee members do not simply dismiss the issue because it doesn’t fall within the limited focus that now seems to be considered the only mandate of the Committee.

When I tried to get help for the problem I’ve tried to get the Committee to address, I had to send several messages over about four years before anyone responded. Then one step was taken and the results reported to me. Unfortunately, since that time, the situation has not only not improved, it has deteriorated throughout the city. But each time I bring up the issue, I’m treated as if I’m bothering people about something that is of no importance to anyone on the Committee and, therefore, something I shouldn’t think about, even though the situation further limits my access to local services that most people take for granted.

Believe me, if a problem affects one person who has the courage to speak up, then it affects a lot more people who lack the means to stand up for themselves. That’s why I’ll continue to write about this problem, along with the fact that people with other types of disabilities are ignoring those of us who are not like them. That’s why besides sending this letter to members of the Committee and other city officials, I’ll use various internet tools to spread the word about all the problems I’ve discussed here, and much more.

I regret the situation has reached this point, but it will not stop me from using whatever means I have to continue trying to educate people about all types of disability, without regard to who these conditions affect. That’s because, no matter what my own personal issues are, I understand and work in support of issues that affect people of all kinds. I make no distinction because certain people aren’t considered to be among the favored few. If more people felt that way, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re dealing with now.

In peace,
Debbie Jordan

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