Tuesday, February 28, 2006


It's tough to be a disability advocate in Rochester today...

Jason McElwain, a young man from Greece who has autism had an awesome, high-scoring basketball game this weekend that has been seen all over the world was on the front page of the paper this morning. It is an wonderful, heartwarming story and yet...

The advocate in me (and my friends across the country) keeps asking questions like, "if he's a gifted athlete why was he only on the court for the last five minutes of the last game of his senior year?"

If I did ask--and I wouldn't dare--someone would say, "Can't you just be grateful?"

Well...yes. And I am.

Are other gifted athletes grateful to sit the bench and only play the last 5 minutes of their senior year?

Another question: Why haven't any of the news articles (except this morning's by Scott Pitoniak) and any of the TV coverage used person-first language?

I expect that this is because calling him "autistic" from the get-go sets up lower expectations in the reader/viewer which makes his stellar performance a bigger surprise and more exciting. This of course proves both that disability-first language does set up lower expectations and that Jason is indeed a basketball player who also has autism--he is not defined by his disability. In fact, no one is.

I know. I really am grateful.

And, does presenting J-Mac's accomplishment as a miracle let us off the hook? Are we settling for feeling good when we should be challenged? Miracles after all can't be replicated or built upon--just marvelled at... Is that enough?


Then we turn to the B section of the paper to learn that Liftline prices are going up related to zones and distances. Just this week I heard a radio ad saying the "regular" buses will now have one low fare, regardless of zone or distance.

It does cost more to travel from the suburbs to the city than within the city. RGRTA won't charge me more to make those trips, but they will charge more for my friends with disabilities.

Public transportation issues are always thorny, can't we just be grateful?

Are my neighbors grateful to get to leave their houses for work or play? Are they grateful when they are charged more than their neighbors for the same service?

Then back to the front page to find out that creating a center/museum in our city that pays tribute to civil rights activist Frederick Douglas is proving nearly impossible...

I don't have my thesaurus handy. Is grateful another word for frustrated?