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Handicapped Demonstration

October 17, 1985

Although we were pleased to see our actions reported in The Times (Oct. 7), we must protest both the tone of George Stein's article and the incomplete and biased picture it gives of the civil rights demonstration on Oct. 6, in which more than 240 persons with disabilities and their supporters participated. Many of the participants are members of the California Assn. of the Physically Handicapped (CAPH), a co-sponsor of the demonstration.

The use of words such as "halt" and "withered" is not only obsolete, (fortunately), but is disparaging, and connotes a picture of stumbling and inept people. We are neither. We believe that we have made great progress in encouraging non-disabled people to see us and speak of us as peers; the descriptive words used by Stein are a setback to this progress.

And although Stein may have counted wheelchairs, he did not count the many people who walked in the demonstration, including people who use braces, crutches, canes and other assistive devices, as well as a number of blind people and a group of non-disabled people who support our efforts. We count people, not chairs; there were 216 people participating in the march; another 30 people joined us at the Bonaventure Hotel.

The charges of "failing to disperse an unlawful gathering" should ring a bell with those of your readers who have participated in other civil rights struggles. As Stein reported, we did attempt (quietly and legally) to reach the floor of the Bonaventure where members of the American Public Transit Assn. were gathering, in order to speak with them about their discriminatory policy, a policy that excludes many of us from public transportation. In response to this effort, the hotel elevators were turned off, forcing some demonstrators to attempt to gain access via the escalators.

APTA's position of letting each transit agency deal with access may also sound familiar: it places a large and, until recently, a silent minority into a state of second-class citizenship. It encourages localities to offer what they call "separate but equal" systems. Separate is never equal. Separate is second class.

Although the demonstration on Sunday may seem small to many, it was the largest of its kind ever to take place.




Los Angeles

Zenzola is president, Atwood is environmental issues chair, and Small is political action chair of the California Assn. of the Physically Handicapped, Inc.

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