Sunday, September 10, 2006

Where the cabs are -- part III

Eliciting Wrath

I had sent a full-text copy of "Where the Cabs Are" to the MountainView Voice -- to the reporter and the editor -- by email when I first posted it on August 28th. I invited them to publish it as a letter to the editor or a stand-alone piece. I monitored the next two issues of the Voice (which is a weekly), and saw nothing, nor did either of the gentleman contact me.

So, on Friday afternoon, I resent the email, with this new message at the top:

"The email below was sent on 8/29/06 in response to the articles I read in the MountainView Voice about the taxi cab "situation" at the CalTrain Station in Mountain View. To date, I have not heard anything at all from the Voice -- nor have I been able to find anything in the Voice offering a dissenting or differing opinion to that expressed by Mr. DeBolt, which surprised me. Perhaps this did not make it to the proper desk? Thank you for your attention."

Later Friday afternoon, I was surprised to receive this email from Don Frances, who is the editor of the MountainView Voice:

"While I welcome any opinion -- even a dissatisfied one -- on the taxi parking situation at Caltrain station, it's very hard to know what to do with your particular submission. First of all, the tone is strange -- for example, you call handicapped people "crips," which I guess is supposed to be OK because you are handicapped, but which isn't appropriate for our paper.

Second of all, the content is mostly the story of your personal realization as to how and why a half-dozen handicapped spots went to taxis. In the end, this realization "pisses me off," as you put it. Well, so what? You don't have any numbers or facts available which would shine light on the fairness (or unfairness) of the new parking policy. I wouldn't be surprised if such a study required much greater resources than you or I have at our disposal, especially given the way anecdotal observation can be misleading. (For example, it's reasonable to assume that handicapped people use taxis too.)

The Voice is interested in reporting local news. So, if taxis, neighbors and riders are demonstrably unhappy with the parking situation, we'll report that. And if handicapped Caltrain riders, who plan on parking at the Mountain View station, are demonstrably unhappy with a new parking situation at the station, we'll run that too. Since you don't drive to the station, and don't seem to know much about it, it's unclear to me why we should run this.

Don Frances"

My Response to Mr. Frances

"Dear Mr. Frances:

Thank you for responding to my email. Even a negative response is preferable to no response at all.

I am sorry that some of my language was offensive to you. I intentionally use a colloquial style of writing when I am writing for my blog, "Crip Chronicles". While I understand that "crip" is thought to be an offensive term by some, within the disabled community it is a term in regular use to identify people with disabilities.

Likewise, the term "pisses me off" was used with intention. I believe that people who read my blog, fellow "crips" and those with sympathies for our community, are frequently "pissed off" by situations just like this one.

Parenthetically, you might be interested to glance at the internet and the "blogosphrere" to see how many people are writing about "crips" and "gimps" with seriousness, thoughtfulness and respect for issues related to people with disabilities.

More formally, I was angered by a seemingly thoughtless action and the subsequent reporting of it as supposedly benefiting "handicapped" people -- to get easier access to taxis -- without looking at the impact of losing or moving handicap parking places at the train station.

The tendency of action "for" people with disabilities without consulting them is addressed by the phrase, "Nothing about us without us." James I. Charlton wrote a book about this entitled, "Nothing About Us Without Us: Disability Oppression and Empowerment".

You mention that, in theory, "it's reasonable to assume that handicapped people use taxis too." Did you know that the law does not require on-call transportation, such as taxi cabs, to be wheelchair accessible? This is why, if I am using my power wheelchair, I cannot use a cab. A manual wheelchair user could only use a cab if they were able to transfer onto the cab seat, and if the driver were willing to assist in loading the chair -- if it were possible -- into the trunk.

Need it be also be mentioned that people with disabilities are less likely to be able to afford a cab?

I am sorry that you feel my knowledge of the parking situation is so inadequate as to be worthy of forming an opinion in regard to the disabled parking places. While I don't use the lot customarily, I have used it a few times. This led to my original remarks:

"One of the things I always admired about this station was how they had laid out the disabled parking. It is right next to the CalTrain south-bound platform, near to the cross-over to to get to the light rail line and to the north-bound CalTrain platform. All of the crip spaces are flush with the platform/sidewalk, so one does not have to negotiate any ramps or curbs; all of the spaces adjoin the sidewalk so the path of travel is completely safe."

Also, I am aware that the ADA (federal law) and Title 24 (California state law) mandate how many handicap spaces are required in public parking lots. There is a formula that can be found in the "CalDAAG" regulations. The only thing I don't know about this particular parking lot is how many spaces there are in total; the required number of handicap ("handicap" is the term used in the regulations) parking spaces is based on a percentage of the total number of spaces.

What I tried to suggest was that 1) this change was made without regard to how it might affect commuters with disabilities; and 2) this change was made without regard to actual demand for cabs at the train station. I was also expressing my anger at this -- because it is typical of my lifelong experience as a person with a disability.

I work full-time in a professional position in which I provide services for persons with disabilities; I have a law degree from UC Hastings College of the Law. I mention these things because I felt your response was somewhat disrespectful -- as though you were addressing an ignorant crank who is whistling in the dark about issues of which she has no real knowledge.

I can only hope that the next time such an issue arises which is covered in your newspaper, you might ask your reporter(s) to do a little research into the possible impact on persons with disabilities -- and not simply assume that it will be positive or neutral.


Teri Adams, J.D."

Interesting Pattern

This exchange about the taxis is the second time in the last three months in which I have received a response that seemed over-the-top in comparison to what I had said to someone about a disability-related physical barrier issue. I always endeavor, however angry or disappointed I might be, to be thoughtful, articulate and considered in what I say. By the same token, I try to call 'em like I see 'em.

It is interesting to me how often this results in people responding by telling me that I either don't know what I'm talking about, am a wild-eyed hot-head, or a shamefully ungrateful crip. Excuse me -- ungrateful person with a disability.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

(Inchoate cries of rage...)