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Specialist on Disabled Defends Her Remarks

October 22, 1989

Bruce Thomson (Times letters, Oct. 15) accuses me of degrading people with disabilities in a Times story (Sept. 28) about parties hosted by Sue Gordon. The reporter made real attempts to understand the issues of barriers and discrimination, but I don't think he realized the negative connotation of the quote when taken out of context.

I did not say that some people with disabilities feel inferior to those others glamorized by the media for extraordinary physical achievements. I said that this glamorization causes the public to view disabled people as inferior by comparison. Our sports-worshipping nation adores anyone who finishes first; whoever comes in second is a loser. That attitude is a barrier which we in the Independent Living movement are trying to change.

Mr. Thomson mistakenly inferred that I said life with a disability is drudgery. I was actually replying to a question about the significance of a group of disabled people going to the beach to have a party. I answered that it has no significance, any more than it does for any group of people to go to the beach. It is a chance to spend a day in the sun, visit with friends and talk about the drudgery of life.

I agree it was a poor choice of words. But what I was referring to is life in a smog-filled urban area, where rents are high and so is the crime, and maybe the kids are being enticed by gang activity, and so on. To me that is the drudgery of life. Because both the interviewer and I understood my reference, neither realized how it could be misunderstood, until it was in print. I regret this oversight.

I assure you, Mr. Thomson, that I harbor no archaic thinking about people with disabilities having full access to education, employment, transportation, health care and all the civil rights. Only then will all disabled people "enjoy life as much as anyone else on this planet," as you stated.

SUSAN L. (TINK) MILLER

acting executive co-director

Westside Center for Independent Living

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