May 6, 2013 at 6:32 AM
Disabilities are not always obvious
Many disabilities are not visible and the disabled do not have to be wheelchair bound to prevent them from working [“Free America’s ‘work beasts’ from disability scammers,” Opinion, April 26.
It’s peevish to chastise the disabled Froma Harrop surmises are able to work, refuse minimal-wage jobs and prefer to “scam” the government with their doctor’s assistance.
The disability application process alone is daunting and most disability recipients require an attorney’s expertise in order to even have their cases considered by Social Security. And her reference to the intellectually disabled busboy, employed by her nearby diner, who was even loved by everyone, is akin to the prejudicial saying: “I even live next door to a black person.”
Geri Daily, Bellingham
May 3, 2013 at 7:02 AM
Not everyone takes advantage of the system
I was appalled by Froma Harrop’s column [“Free America’s ‘work beasts’ from disability scammers,” Opinion, April 26].
Let us be clear: This was nothing more than a naked attack on the safety net that Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can provide. It’s an old tactic — take a small truth and enlarge it to encompass the entire network.
The small truth: There are some who do scam the SSDI system. This does not make that system bad or undesirable. This attack casts aspersions on anyone getting disability, insinuating that all who do are lazy good-for-nothings.
I am gratified to read letters of support for disabled workers from the likes of Ruth Kimball from Renton, David Warner from Seattle and Anna Kysar, also of Seattle. These people know and understand something fundamental: Disability is not an easy road for many, many people, and the stigma often attached to getting the needed help from the safety net makes it even worse. We cannot tolerate more stigmatizing. In fact, let’s call it what it is: bullying.
Philip Ryburn, Seattle
Harrop was not suggesting everyone takes advantage of the system
Ruth Kimball’s Northwest Voices letter indicts Froma Harrop for attempting to discredit the integrity of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries [“Disabled workers deserve more respect,” Northwest Voices, May 1].
What the opinion article suggests is stopping the disability scammers to ensure the long-term viability of SSDI, not attempting to abolish SSDI or paint all beneficiaries as scammers.
The letter even goes so far as to suggest the opinion author meet some Seattle claimants so she could see for herself that there are no SSDI disability scammers in Seattle.
Since the letter author makes her living defending such cases in court and in turn makes her living from such unfortunate people, I wonder if it wouldn’t be appropriate to ask her for a record of all the questionable cases she has turned down over the years to protect the integrity of SSDI?
David Cutler, Medina
May 2, 2013 at 7:31 AM
Depression is misunderstood
Froma Harrop does not understand the challenge of dealing with severe depression [“Free America’s ‘work beasts’ from disability scammers,” Opinion, April 26]. The mental incapacity of depression is real and sometimes leads to suicide. True depression is not merely a “low mood”; it comes with an inability to bounce back to normalcy.
Harrop ridicules a young woman’s effort to recover from this serious illness. The woman shamelessly went to the beach and a party. She maybe even smiled once or twice! Didn’t she know she should cower in a dark room, under a blanket, and never, never be caught smiling? In fact, fresh air, sunshine and social contact with others is an essential part of recovery.
Let us sincerely hope that the next wall of prejudice to crumble and fall will be the one surrounding mental illness.
David Warner, Seattle
Stop blaming the ill for the nation’s economic problems
Froma Harrop begrudges the disabled a cup of coffee [“Free America’s ‘work beasts’ from disability scammers,” Opinion, April 26]. She writes with disgust that she sees people on Social Security disability benefits “at the coffee shop, refilling their cups in leisure …” How dare they!
I am a Social Security disability attorney. My clients frequently ask me if they will be judged on the way they look. Because epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and a vast array of other chronic illnesses are invisible, my client’s worry that they will be judged on their looks, not their medical records. I explain that the judge will base the decision on the medical records. Harrop has a better system, the “she will know it when she sees it” system.
The ability to drink coffee does not translate into to the ability to work. While someone with epilepsy may be able to go to a coffee shop on a good day, they cannot go on the days they are having seizures.
Unfortunately, there are very few employers who allow their employees to take as many sick days as they like and come in on their good days.
Ms. Harrop also perpetuates another myth that people who receive Social Security disability benefits are living lives of luxury and ease. Social Security disability provides an important safety net that prevents homelessness and starvation, but provides very little beyond the essentials.
It is time to stop blaming the chronically ill for our economic problems. Let them drink coffee!
Anna Kysar, Social Security disability attorney, Shcroeter Goldmark & Bender, Seattle
May 1, 2013 at 7:36 AM
Disabled workers deserve more respect
As a Renton attorney who has practiced Social Security Disability law in the Seattle-Tacoma area for 25 years, I was infuriated that The Seattle Times published this erroneous attack on our nation’s social-safety net [“Free America’s ‘work beasts’ from disability scammers,” Opinion, April 26].
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries are workers who have paid into the system over many years. SSDI cases are based on objective medical evidence like MRIs, not “self-made diagnoses.”
I invite Froma Harrop to meet some real Seattle claimants who are homeless and without medical care while fighting a legitimate claim, after working 30 years and paying into Social Security. Then she would know that you actually don’t see them at the coffee shop because their modest benefits don’t afford them the luxury of a latte.
Moreover, about one in five male and one in seven female American SSDI beneficiaries die within the first five years of receiving benefits. To question their level of impairment by resorting to a Canadian case is insulting.
American workers who have contributed to our country’s Social Security system deserve this safety net and far greater respect.
Ruth Kimball, Renton
September 9, 2009 at 4:00 PM
At Seattle Center, plenty of handicapped parking still available
The Seattle Times editorial about the Theater Commons ["A better way to honor Donnelly," Opinion, editorial, Sept. 8] does not provide a complete description of the accessible parking changes at Seattle Center.
It does not address the expansion to more than four dozen accessible parking spaces in Mercer Garage. An elevated skybridge from the garage allows all patrons, with and without disabilities, to avoid the inconveniences of street crossing. There are accessible drop-off zones in front of Seattle Repertory and Intiman theaters. Outreach to theater patrons this summer informed us of specific disability-related issues beyond what the Mercer Garage can accommodate, and we are pursuing alternative solutions to accommodate those needs.
In a 20-year effort to increase public space, Seattle Center has phased out surface parking within its campus and transitioned to consolidated, integrated garage parking on the edges of campus. All of our garages provide accessible parking for people with disabilities. Could we have done a better job promoting the availability of these locations? Yes, and we take responsibility for that. Seattle Center relies on a good relationship with our community of patrons with disabilities to help us continually improve the center’s accessibility.
Theater Commons has been in the works for more than a decade. A portion of it was chosen to honor Peter Donnelly following his death earlier this year because of his long affiliation with the two theaters.
Implying that improved, integrated accessibility to the arts for everyone was somehow a disservice to Donnelly is disheartening. Theater Commons turns campus asphalt into open space and creates an inviting north entry point for all of our patrons, with and without disabilities.
– Robert Nellams, Seattle Center Director, Seattle
A question public officials should be asking
Is it necessary, or is it nice?
That is the basic question every public official, every committee, every task force that spends the public’s money needs to coherently answer.
These resources come from the sweat of citizen effort, given to our elected officials on the condition they be spent after careful consideration to protect, educate and facilitate the societal structure and opportunities necessary for us to succeed. These funds and taxes are not in any way, shape or form an entitlement that our government has an endless right to collect and spend as it sees fit.
For example, significant coverage was given last week to the potential loss of 13 disabled parking spots ["Theatergoers protest plan to move disabled parking," NWTuesday, Sept. 1] to a memorial park near the Seattle Center Theater Commons, a project Seattle has apparently allotted $1.5 million for, matching other contributions and grants as part of a long-term master plan for more open space. At the same time, the Seattle Public Library system closed all branches in an effort to save around $650,000 and employee jobs.
This is not rant against government. We all have our pet projects, causes and things we ask our elected officials to do for us, places where we think the money should be spent. The open-space plan is certainly one of these. But there is no longer a surplus, and it may serve us to reconsider our priorities.
Look at the various publicly funded proposals, projects and studies going on around us every day, and simply ask the question: Is it necessary or is it nice?
It’s a pretty straightforward test.
– Richard W. Dow, Redmond
September 8, 2009 at 4:00 PM
Loss of handicapped parking irrelevant in long run
The Seattle Times story regarding the Seattle Center’s apparent disregard for disabled citizens ["Theatergoers protest plan to move disabled parking," NWTuesday, Sept. 1] failed to put the whole situation in perspective.
Part of the Seattle Center’s Century 21 Master Plan calls for the creation of new underground parking beneath a completely transformed and revitalized Memorial Stadium area. This will eventually render the Mercer parking garage itself obsolete and allow easier access to the entire center for all patrons, including the disabled.
Unfortunately, due to the rush order put on the Peter Donnelly Memorial Garden grant, all people see currently is the elimination of 13 handicapped stalls in favor of an ostensibly meager mini-park.
The master plan, however, provides a much more cohesive, awe-inspiring vision for the future of the Seattle Center. I urge anyone interested or concerned to check it out at seattlecenter.com.
– Christian Nelson, Seattle
In remembering benefactor to arts, protect access for all
The best way to memorialize Peter Donnelly is to remain dedicated to providing equal access to the arts at Seattle Center. The very idea that it would be OK to relocate handicapped parking spaces further away from the venues they serve calls into question the Seattle Center’s commitment to accessibility.
Patrons of the Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Opera, Intiman Theatre and Seattle Center have already expressed strong objections to the options being proposed. The upcoming years of construction on Mercer Street cannot be ignored.
For example, would that proposed drop-off area even continue to be available? What of the path between the garage and the center grounds? Construction will surely bring changing — and inaccessible — pedestrian routes. As already-scarce parking becomes nonexistent, maintaining dedicated handicapped parking spaces should be the center’s overriding priority.
Surely there is a rational argument to be made that accessibility for citizens is a better use for precious space than landscaping — however well-intentioned the memorial garden might be.
I do not presume to speak for the man who epitomized an individual’s commitment to bring the arts to all in our community, but I cannot believe Donnelly would approve.
– Deborah Witmer, Seattle
Makeshift handicapped parking just doesn’t cut it
Peter Donnelly was a champion of theater in Seattle, and I hardly think he would have wanted to hinder patrons’ access to Seattle Center venues.
Isn’t there another spot on the grounds for a memorial garden? The handicapped parking must stay, based on the comments of theater patrons quoted in the article.
Spaces in the garage across the street are not acceptable. There is a place for people to be dropped off, but what if the driver is the handicapped person who needs to park and attend the theater?
– MaryAnne Seibert, Seattle
August 12, 2009 at 3:22 PM
Thanks from the world’s Boo Radleys
Editor, The Times:
On behalf of my daughter Cami, I would like to thank Eunice Kennedy Shriver for creating the Special Olympics ["Champion for the disabled dies after series of strokes," Times, news, Aug. 12.]
When I grew up in the ’60s, people with disabilities were invisible, hidden away and warehoused. As in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the Boo Radleys of the world were destined to live in darkness, conveniently out of the public eye.
Mrs. Shriver changed all of that. Her experience with her sister’s profound handicap was about to change everything. Her dream: Take the compromised, the infirm, the “not-enough” and place them in an athletic arena for the world to see their courage — the definition of outrageous vision.
Ironically, people who were never intended to compete for anything (let alone athletics) changed the world’s perception.
So Boo Radleys of the world, wherever you are, know that the world has changed. Know that hearts have changed. All because of a woman who saw something others did not see, or chose not to see. She saw how thousands of lives could be changed.
And because of one woman, my daughter has a medal for the 10-meter walk. Amazing! God bless Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
– Gregory Burns, Kirkland
July 6, 2009 at 4:00 PM
Thanks to columnist for sharing universal moment
I wept as I read Jerry Large’s moving column about having to place his mother in a care facility ["An aging parent; a sad choice," NWThursday, July 2]. With the news these days dominated by the absolutely tragic, the unfortunate and the downright ridiculous, it was refreshing to spend a few moments reading about something that nearly everyone can and will relate to eventually. I appreciated him sharing this difficult moment in his life with grace, emotion and honesty.
Thank you for giving this reader a few moments to attach to the every day, rather than try to once again relate to the often incomprehensible world around us.
– Xlc Dlaqael Joloronde, Poulsbo
April 23, 2009 at 4:30 PM
Compassion for vulnerable citizens, please
It is shameful and deceitful that the head of The Arc of King County, allegedly representing all developmentally disabled citizens, ignores the plight and special needs of our most profoundly, severely disabled, who require the special, skilled care available only in the full-service, cost-effective state residential schools with highly trained permanent staff ["Move Yakima Valley institution residents into community," seattletimes.com, Opinion, Sylvia N. Fuerstenberg column, April 20].
Sylvia N. Fuerstenberg would callously evict fragile Yakima Valley School residents into for-profit, scattershot-service community homes, many with unskilled, high-turnover staff. Even moving some to other residential habilitation centers (RHCs) would impose a crushing burden on families wanting to be close to their loved ones.
She tries to peddle the vision that current low-functioning RHC residents could eloquently testify in Olympia. Sadly, this is false. The former RHC resident featured in her spin story probably should have been placed into a community facility, as has already taken place with many other high-skilled residents who don’t require intensive, 24-hour skilled care.
Even worse, Fuerstenberg wrongly claims evicting Yakima residents into often-failing community homes would save money. She should know that nobody seems to know exactly how much community homes cost per client. Why? Community funding comes from dozens of public sources, with little or no agreement on total costs.
In contrast, complete funding for the state’s five RHCs comes from just one source: the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). Past studies show costs are about the same for full-service RHCs and for-profit community facilities. Community advocates often wrongly cite the low partial-cost funding from DSHS, but fail to mention the many other funding sources for community facilities.
Most disturbing, the spokesperson for Arc ignores the true helpless conditions and abilities of the average resident at the state’s RHCs, such as Yakima Valley School, The Fircrest School, Frances Haddon Morgan and others.
A little compassion and understanding, please, for our most vulnerable citizens, who require safe, cost-effective campus homes with needed emergency and other care at hand.
– Philip R. Scheier, Shoreline
Response from Yakima Valley parent
Sylvia N. Fuerstenberg’s column was full of misinformation about Yakima Valley School. Yes, we call it a school because the people who live there are consistently learning new things. Calling it an institution it gives the impression of an archaic, dark building where nobody is seen or heard about in public –a very distorted view from many, many years ago.
Neither Fuerstenberg nor anyone else has the right to tell me where my son should live and what would be best for him. I know what is best for him — I am his mother. I used to be an Arc supporter, but not anymore, and I am not alone in that decision. I have the right under the Olmstead Act to choose where my son lives, and I choose Yakima Valley.
The middle-aged lady who spoke at the hearings was able to speak for herself, and herself only. Those comments do not reflect the rest of the folks that cannot speak for themselves. Community living is not for everyone and regardless of misinformation, many people’s needs cannot be meet adequately in the community. At YVS, the staff is very well-trained and most have been there for 20 years or more. They know each person’s needs.
Residents live in very nice duplexes with their own rooms, which are decorated to suit their personalities. They have a very nice, fenced backyard so they can go outside whenever they want. Meals are specifically prepared for each person’s special diet and needs. They are also taken on outings all the time. My son has a wonderful staff that takes him to the fair and monster-truck shows, just because he loves trucks.
Fuerstenberg did not bother to interview any family members of the folks who are there so they could tell their side of the story and what they think is best. There have been several deaths after traumatic moves for these people and lawsuits as a result of these moves. Who wants to take responsibility for that?
Gov. Chris Gregoire and many others legislators have been invited to visit YVS to see for themselves what a great place it is, but no one has bothered to do so. Instead, they make their decisions by sitting behind desks and reading inadequate information.
It is not about the difficulty of making a change; it is about the safety and well-being of our loved ones.
– Sharon Juza, Auburn
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