Tenacity or If You Will…Stubbornness
copyright Sandy Long
I got hurt on the road in 1983 trying to put 55 gallon drums of glue onto pallets without a barrel jack being available. I ended up in the office of ACB trucking for 2 years then returned to driving which made the injury flair up again to the point that I could barely walk. I had to leave trucking and ended up on disability.
In 1988 I married a guy who was also disabled being in a wheelchair. We lived in a smaller N MO town of about 6,000 people. He got me interested in disabled rights and I learned about the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). The ADA is enforced by the Justice Department and is required to be followed by public entities. The town did not have any curb cuts nor a handicap parking ordinance.
Because of my hubby then being in a wheelchair, it was hell trying to get him onto sidewalks to go shopping, to businesses or for him to access the courthouse. I contacted the city and was told that they did not have the money to put in curb cutouts on the sidewalks…nor an elevator in the courthouse. Yet the town had just spent several million dollars building an 18 hole public golf course and a new park with minor league quality ball parks in it. I decided to get active in city politics.
I went to a meeting of the court house preservation committee to talk to them about getting an elevator in the courthouse. (the courtrooms were on the 2nd and 3rd floors and the town had about 30% of the population elderly or disabled). A woman on the committee said to me that I only wanted an elevator because I was too fat to climb the stairs! I remained cool, but knew this was just the first shot in what was to turn out to be a war.
With the city out of compliance with the ADA, I contacted the city administrator and the mayor and asked to be heard at the next city council meeting and to have private meetings with each of them. At each event, I used the very big stick of filing charges against the town with the Justice Department because I kept getting told the town could not afford curb cuts or any type of handicap assistance in their public buildings.
I wrote articles for the local newspaper and letters to the editor; to say I stirred things up would be an understatement! Eventually, the town agreed to start an ADA city committee to start working on a plan to provide curb cuts and to become more handicap accessible.
During this time of conflict over helping the elderly and disabled citizens of the town, I received threatening letters and phone calls, trash was thrown in my yard and the tires on my car were slashed. I was disrespected in meetings and verbally attacked both to my face and behind my back. The mayor even told the police chief to write me any ticket they could think of to harass me. It was pretty ugly!
But you know, the more they tried to stop me, the more stubborn I got and the harder I worked at doing what was right for the elderly and disabled people in town. I started an advocacy group for the disabled and got appointed to the board of directors of an accessible living center which helps people stay independent in their own homes if they become disabled. I already was on the advisory council for at risk kids at the high school; though they tried to get me off of that too by trying to ruin my reputation.
All sorts of things were done to try to ruin me and my reputation. They said that I had financial interest in getting the advocacy group going…though there were no dues required or money changing hands for services rendered. They tried to say that I was supporting the use of the disabled to further my own agendas. According to them, I was stupid, fat, lazy, a cheater and a liar. I just kept working harder.
I go through that town often as it is on a major highway and I still do some business there. (I moved when I divorced my husband and came back on the road) I smile when I do go to that town because there are curb cuts on every sidewalk now, an elevator in the courthouse and even two traffic signals with beepers so the blind folk know when the light changes so they can cross safely. I remember the thank you notes and calls and the shaking of my hand by a lot of elderly and disabled folk when the curb cuts, elevator and lights were put in….they make me smile to remember them. All of the fight was worth it…because I helped others.
Trying to stop me from doing what I do or ruin me by threats, rumor or innuendo do not work, I just get more stubborn and work harder to do what I do best…helping others…it makes me smile.