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Disabled Speaks for Self

August 23, 1985

Regarding the article in July 30 View section about Mrs. Mary Nemec Doremus and her "Challenge" organization concerning disabled people ("Making a New Image for Disabled" by Tia Gindick): I am a newly disabled individual and I am particularly offended by the idea that this self-appointed spokesperson may be convincing some people that what she is saying may in fact represent the thinking of other people who are disabled. While she is to be applauded for maintaining her mobility in view of her severe illness, the cry that what we need most is "role models, role models, role models" is pure nonsense.

(Also) it's impossible to tell what Mrs. Doremus' "media guide" has to offer writers such as your reporters and staff writers in the way of improving communication about the disabled, since the only clue we are offered is the brief list of prohibited words. In rebuttal, allow me to describe my situation in perfectly acceptable (to me) language. I submit that if Mrs. Doremus is offended, she is in a very small minority. I am now crippled as a result of the stroke that afflicted me last year and paralyzed my left arm and leg. I definitely feel like the victim of that stroke, as much as if I had been attacked and beaten by a stranger in a dark alley. In fact, a constant feeling of dread was one of the most pronounced feelings I had to learn to live with in the first few months after the stroke, just a generalized unfocused fear that made me afraid to go to sleep (because of the bad dreams) and afraid to watch television because I took the pervasive violence so personally. No, these words don't bother me nearly as much as the idea that this woman might be spending her time and energy much more usefully by lobbying, for example, against the cruel cuts in Medicare benefits that are forcing hospitals to turn patients out before they are fully rehabilitated because they can't afford the expenses of more than $800 per day, like my private insurance paid for me.

As for role models, those have always been all around us, from Franklin Roosevelt and Helen Keller to the all-too-many paraplegic military veterans. No thank you, Mrs. Doremus, don't presume to speak for me to "the media." I am much more concerned about the politicians who would further bloat our military-industrial complex at the expense of our elderly and needy and handicapped. If you want to be a role model, you'd better reorder your priorities first. And, for God's sake, forget about marketing disability and making disability "chic." The thought makes me retch. Excuse me.

ROBERT HAFER

Sierra Madre

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