Meg Casey
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"Most Able Disabled"

Meg Casey's handicapped issues column

Meg Casey
Meg Casey with her brother TJ, a Connecticut state Representative
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Obnoxious and Dense At City Hall

Handicapped Advocacy

November 23 1983

Dear Meg,

You make us all understand better what people with handicaps go through in life and how other people without handicaps can help to make things easier for them just by paying more attention to what is going on around them and being more considerate.

I read in that you are an advocate for the disabled. What do you do? How do you do it?

Kevin

Hello Kevin,

I'm sure you are not alone in your confusion about the term advocacy and explaining it would help us all out.

First, I would recommend that you check out your own dictionary's definition of the word and compare them with my explanation.

I am considered an advocate of the disabled person because I believe in and support, both in verbal and in written words, the reasons behind the civil rights movements of Americans with disabilities. I work towards the goals of the movement for total accessibility of every community in our country (and the world) architecturally and in attitude; and for the complete integration of the "social circles" in society so that every individual can participate to the fullest of his or her ability as it is his or her civil right to do.

When I first became concerned over the issues being dealt with by the people in this movement I didn't have the slightest idea how to put my frustrated energies to an effective use either. All I had was a lot of enthusiasm and a stubborn Irish determination on my own until a friend gave me a "do it yourself advocacy kit" – a list of explanations about advocacy – some definite do's and don'ts and a bunch of suggested methods or tactics for the most effective ways to advocate whatever issues a person wants to fight for.

No matter what choices you make for yourself in life knowing how to support your own decisions well or how to state your case clearly and firmly is a definite plus for your confidence. We can all use that!

Eleven Commandments Of Advocacy

November 30 1983

The main objective behind this column has been to help people come to a better understanding of what disabilities are and what having a disability can mean to a life - whether it be for their own life or that of a loved one or just that of others around them, - so that they as people might be able to learn how to deal with social interaction in a genuinely self-confident manner.

I think you will find that these Eleven Commandments of Advocacy are useful guides to follow no matter what choices face you in advocating for a specific cause or in promoting yourself in a personal endeavor.

  1. Be assertive – But neither attackingly aggressive nor too passive.
  2. Be yourself – Use your advocacy style; do not try to mimic someone else. Some people come on like gang busters and are very effective; others work quietly with firmness and persistence; others use a mixture of the two.
  3. Be aware that skills you have developed in other areas may also be useful in advocacy work, e.g., Expertise developed from party organization, parenting, business, the arts.
  4. Be Versatile – Be aware that many skills other than public speaking are needed in advocacy work, e.g.; Organizational writing, facilitational writing, facilitating, research, public relations, secretarial, bookkeeping. You certainly have some skill needed for advocacy work!
  5. Use Your Power – Remember, you do have power as a citizen. You can ask to speak to public officials for a reasonable time. You can get access to public records, you can enter public buildings and speak at public hearings. You also have personal power, or an ability to persuade. Use it to obtain your goals.
  6. Use Your Vote – In dealing with public officials, remember: as a taxpayer you support them financially – and elected officials need your vote to stay in office.
  7. Don't Assume Anything – Do not take it for granted that the person you're talking with knows more than you do; they may, in fact, know very little about disability rights or the particular issue you are discussing. Many people, particularly elected officials need to be educated.
  8. Negotiate to Win – When negotiating, ask for a little more than you want so that you can compromise without losing anything essential. But did not ask for so much asked that you lose use your credibility.
  9. Beware Of False Friends – Watch out for a "smoke screen" opponents, i.e. those who appear to be nice and understanding but really are opposed to your rights. Beware of seductive behavior and excuses like "No Money" or "I'm not the person responsible" and be prepared to respond accordingly.
  10. Don't Give Up – Even a loss one year does not mean you can't win the following year. Every time you try to advocate for a specific cause or disabled issues in general, you at least begin to educate each person you talk to.
  11. Appeal Your Issues – Be aware that you may not always win, at least not the first time around. Even the best advocates lose occasionally. So be prepared to appeal a decision made or comprise when necessary. Losing does not make you a bad person are bad advocate.

Keep On Plugging!

Equality, Liberty & Justice For The Handicapped

February 20 1985

Dear Meg,

I've been reading so many public comments in the newspapers regarding the city's controversial renovation plans.

It is hard to believe that the right of the handicapped to equal access and participation could ever be considered as "controversial" in America. As an American citizen I think such an attitude is shameful and the people who feel otherwise should be reminded of a little thing called the United States Constitution. Underline the key words - Equality, Liberty and Justice For All. They should also be helped to remember all of the popular, historic and heroic figures of the past and present, who just happened to be disabled in some way, yet achieved tremendous success in their lifetime and fields of endeavor. The talents they used and shared with the world changed the course of history bettering the future for all and gifting us with many enjoyments.

R. Campbell

Hello, R. Campbell,

Yes, I do agree - wholeheartedly - but, please, don't stop here with this one letter to me! Continue to spread your philosophies on this issue a bit further. Send off another juicy one full of as much enthusiasm straight to the State Building Inspector's Office in Hartford before they make a final decision on the present matter of granting the city builders a waiver which would allow them to go ahead with their plans to cutback on provisions for accountability. - Make copies of the letter and mail them all around.

C.C. the lower left hand corner with a list of the people you are sending copies to and include their official title used. Clout, you know! - (C.C. simply means that you've sent copies.)

My suggestions for your C.C. mailing list are: The Office of Protection and Advocacy in Hartford, Mayor Alberta Jagoe, The Milford Board of Aldermen, and the Milford City Attorney.

The more letters they receive opposing the plans the better it will stand for us. Just as the more bodies we can have present at the public hearings on this case, in Hartford and in Milford, the better chances will be for our win.

Let's fill those hearing rooms to overflowing capacity with concerned citizens. You can make a difference if you try and absolutely everybody is needed … Keep your eyes and ears open for any news of a date being set for the hearing and bring along some friends.

Thank you again and we'll hope to see you there!

Letters To Negligent Officials

March 9 1983

Dear Meg,

I asked the Board of Aldermen to have the responsible city agencies look into the illegal removal of Handicapped Parking signs required under state law at two of our newest shopping centers.

I have repeatedly asked that fines for this action be issued or that the certificate of occupancy of these centers be revoked as this continued violation is in direct opposition to the parking plan the receive from zoning.

I know that some of the other centers can remove their signs as they were built before the present law, but in the interest of humanity they should make some attempt to conform in the spirit with the law.

One shopping center uses the handicapped area as a snow dump.

Bill

Hello Bill,

It is a pretty disgusting state of affairs when the actual authority figures on these matters stare you boldly in the eye, agreed to the truths of the facts you are presenting to dare you to press the issue further by their "so what" attitudes. You've heard the old expression "You can't fight City Hall." Well, I don't need to tell you the long line of City Hall Mud Wrestling Champions that run in my family. Not only is it possible to fight, but with perseverance, fortitude, a few friends, and a real big mouth sometimes you can win.

Occasionally I'm almost convinced that "Obnoxious and Dense" are two of the job requirements for city agencies and the social security department.

It is no skin off their noses how long the battle lasts; They are getting paid for their time.

I spoke at the state capital on Handicapped Parking and funding for door to door transportation. Both loaded issues. I don't know if it was a good or bad sign that I was not alone in the sentiments expressed in my address to the ladies and gentlemen of the committee.

I told of the need for stricter enforcement of the laws concerning compliance with proper markings of this designated handicap parking spaces and of stricter fine enforcement for a property owner's failure to comply with those laws.

I mentioned where the snow has been parked recently.

I supported the use of a more universally recognized marking system on license plates - the symbol of access - to replace the HP now used.

I spoke against the misuse of HP parking permits and asked for more to be taken in deciding the eligibility for obtaining one. That the HP spaces should be left available for handicapped drivers. Passengers can in most cases be dropped off both in private and organizational transport instances and those vehicles parked elsewhere.

I finished by asking them to please help our disabled citizenry by following through on the laws being passed by seeing to it that that they are indeed being properly enforced and not abused by the time they've filtered down to the people so that they may help those they were meant to help, the disabled, not an inept system.

What more could I say? We gave it a shot. They were writing down a lot of notes as the testimonies were given. So we just have to wait and see.

In the meantime on the home front. … "sic 'em!" Continue writing vitriolic letters to the negligent officials, sending copies to the guilty property owners, the mayor, the newspapers, and if necessary to your representatives in the state government and in Washington, D.C.

Eventually, someone has got to listen to you … has to listen to us all.

Handicapped spaces used for snow dumps still occur in 2015, but it was a very snowy winter leaving few options of where to put it. Boston and Buffalo had winter snow piles lasting until mid summer.

Meg urged readers to write letters to decision makers that can get things done in lobbying for accessibility.

Politicians Need Our Vote

September 12 1984

political ads Dear Readers,

Election time is rolling around on us, it's really too bad. The first thing to fall on my head when I open my mailbox are political pamphlets, and the amount increases daily! Everything from personal take letters from the candidates, to surveys and "last-minute support" pleas from the nature societies and the national woman's movements. This is the one time of the year when I can feel that at least somebody out there wants me more than the utility companies do and being sought after makes me feel so important to "the system."

In all seriousness, I am important to the system. We all are, as voters and potential voters, by the way our government system was set up by our forefathers. They set the groundwork for a system meant to protect each individual's right to life in pursuit of happiness by allowing each person to have a say in how things are run around them and therefore throughout the country. "A say" which can only be counted and tabulated into a majority – for a majority of rule system – when we exercise our right to vote and cast our chosen ballot along with our fellow citizens.

Despite the age of cynicism, you really can be a determining factor in the way things are run around you when you take charge of your own life and fight for what you want in it. Your vote may seem small because of our ability to use it almost as privately it seems no one counts it. But they do! Why else do you think all those campaign funds are spent just trying to sway your opinions on the issue of the day? It is because you have the power to say what is and is not going to be done – in your home town, state, or in the whole country. If people want to be re-elected to their positions they have to stay in your good graces so that you do vote for them repeatedly.

Is essential to groups of citizens such as the disabled in this country, especially, that each and every eligible voting member of that minority registers to vote before the deadline. (Call the local Registrar of Voters Office to ask when that is.) And vote into action the people and issues on the ballot that best support your rights and equal access and opportunities in an independent lifestyle. Stricter enforcement of the regulations upholding accessibility in architectural designs as well as attitudes and employment opportunities won't ever come to be unless you and I join our voting power together to force the motion of progress in that direction.

To register to vote, call the Register of Voters or your favorite candidate! A person will be sent to you in your home to register you at your convenience. The politicians need your vote and will be more than happy to come sign you up too. Take advantage of the opportunity and do your own attitude swaying on them!

Absentee ballots for those who can get out to the polling places must be applied for early enough so don't delay longer than necessary in applying for one.

On election day one accessible voting booth (adjustable height for each individual) will be available at every polling place. We've made all the efforts so that you can vote. Is up to you to make the effort to cast your vote for a better lifestyle.

Handicapped Voting Access

September 28 1983

Dear Meg,

This is an election year for our city officials. What is the procedure for the disabled citizens in this community to cast their own votes for the candidates of their own votes for the candidate of their choosing? Are we going to have accessible voting machines at the polling places like those used so successfully in the city of Manchester or are we once again limited again to using an "absentee" ballot to exercise our rights even though we are not absent – that is? And if that is still to be our plight this year what steps have been made to ensure no repetition of the fiasco which the disabled woman and her husband went to the city clerk's office last election over the acceptance of her absentee ballot?

The Concerned Voters of Milford and the M.I.D.P. Committee

Dear Concerned Voters;

I have checked into the accessible voting booths which are used to serve Manchester and was most delighted with a very positive feedback that was given to me by the Manchester City Clerk's office.

These machines have been readjusted so that they are now able to be easily hand-cranked up or down to a comfortable height for a voter without interfering at all with the workings of the machinery. The curtain around the booth is also right for person using a wheelchair to be able to cast his or her vote in privacy. The best part is that they assured me that the cost of adapting the voting machinery is relatively inexpensive and that if our city public works department can't do the job for us that the Automatic Voting Machine company will send men out to do the work for them - and quickly! They also extended an invitation to any of our city officials – or representatives – to go and see what these booths which is always on display at the Manchester City Hall.

I received a following response to our request from Milford:

– Following through on your request, I am happy to advise we have been able to mechanically adjust three of the voting machines to allow easy operation for disabled persons. The additional machines necessary will be adjusted within the coming year. The three machines available will be placed in heavy voting districts.

Any person needing help in all voting districts need only to ask the moderator for assistance. All moderators will be instructed as to the law regarding allowing another person within the voting booth if a disabled person asks for their assistance. –

I have personally been using this later method since I first became of age to be a registered voter.

As for absentee ballots call the city clerk's office for instructions. However, there still is time left before the November election date in order to push for an additional two machines to be adjusted. Then, at least one accessible voting machine could be located in the heaviest polling area in each of the five voting districts. This will enable the people to cast their ballots for the districted candidates running for office also.

Letters or phone calls to the Registrar of Voters Office in City Hall, to the Mayor, to your alderman or whoever your favorite candidate is, would certainly go a long way. At no time does your presence in the community hold more weight or will you be more some listened to than at election time. Don't hesitate to use it to your advantage, they won't. They want your vote. They need your vote. They will cater to you to get your vote and rightly they should. It is their job to do so; that's what they were elected to do. They are your public employees and though though they sometimes forget that fact don't you.

In order for a politician to get into a power position he-she first has to get elected … So you just get ready, register and vote!

Architectural Accessibility Legislation

February 6 1985

Hello Readers,

As the push for compliance with the architectural accessibility legislation for the handicap within the state and local building codes continues to strengthen here in our fair city of Milford, Connecticut … "Boy are our conversations getting lively!"

Discussions are already underway even before I enter some rooms lately, that would provide great material for that proverbial fly on the wall to take notes from! … (Just as long as his little neck could hold up through a rigorous volley of ideas, that is!)

Feelings are ranging from amazement that this is really being treated as a "serious" issue today, to a feeling of impatience-cum hostility over it as a pesky annoyance which could potentially add to expenses or cause cutbacks in more favored areas of planning. All that versus the cheerleading advocates and their equality enthusiasm in rebuttal, of course.

I have actually had the personal experience of being bombarded with an onslaught of apologies, inquiries, gossip, questions, and judgments … all rained down on my head as soon as I set foot through the doorway!

Other than my immediate attention being captured at the call of my name and then lost in the rapid fire of voices, there was no earthly way to respond to everything at once. The overall effect on me was one of wide-eyed astonishment as I took in the entire scene. Such a free-flowing exchange of energy, it was unreal! An open airing of honest personal opinions – being submitted, politely or not! Heck – finally, people were seen as something solid, without having to have someone else put words in their mouths and then have to drag them back out as well. Oh it was wonderful! So wonderful that I said to myself "self, this must be Heaven!"

At last people are beginning to take a stand on an issue. Verbally! One way or the other, so we know where they stand and how hard we still have to work to get a free world built in our lifetime. Talking is a far preferable state of affairs than to have the matters of concerns to the disabled either continually swept under the rug, or worse, put back on the shelf and only dusted off occasionally so that it remains looking nice at face value.

It is very easy to sit back and allow someone else to have his life circumstances hampered by needless obstacles. As long as we don't have to give up our time nor have to witness daily their struggles in dealing with the situations, which we helped to create or to perpetrate for their lifestyles. Is this because of a selfishness or callous disregard of others? Unfortunately, everyone is not that lucky in having an easy way to turn a blind eye. It could be you, or yours. The disabled are many people - friends, brothers, sisters, parents, children, people with vast skills, varying intellectual and creative abilities, full of desires to be achieved and great promises to give it to the future. If they get a fair chance at it.

Remember, anything you can do, they can do, too.

Let Your Voices Be Heard

(last column, Meg died on May 26 1985)
May 22 1985

Dear Readers,

Two legislative bills are now being considered in the Connecticut State Legislature that address a very important issue. Personal Care Attendants, (PCAs) (A program which I have explained, recommended, and promoted many times in this column speaking from my own knowledge as a satisfied customer in participation.)

The existing program is greatly misunderstood and lacking in money all around.

Both bills will go a long way toward putting in place some long overdue improvements. However, "nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could …" In order to ensure passage of these programs through the legislature, we need your support and we need now! I know – you hear that all the time. Well the importance is very real here as real and important as the issue of sustaining the personal control over the maintenance of your own physical independence to the maximum of your ability is to you.

The employment of a personal care attendant seems the perfect solution to that for those individuals who, like myself, must have some amount of physical assistance in order to carry out some daily function or other. Like it or not to be independent you need help … A highly contradictory statement of fact. Fact nonetheless. PCA programs allow the benefit of maintaining the control of your life without sacrificing dignity. independence or the human element that can be found in helpful and compassion able relationship between employer and employee.

Both of these will most likely be voted on by the Connecticut State Legislature soon. Please contact your legislator today and express your personal concerns in this area. Everyone's voice can be heard effectively but if no no sound is uttered at all, no cause stands a chance. Description of these bills as prepared are as follows:

Know then and don't forget to call or write your state representative!

• Make PCA services available to people with severe disabilities who were able to live in the community, but are unable to work or maintain employment and are therefore Medicare eligible.

• Amend the existing Financial Care Pilot Program which has provided subsidies for PCA services to people with disabilities who are employed or are employable, and therefore not eligible for Medicaid. It has made it possible for people with severe disabilities to be active, contributing members of their communities, and has proven to be cost effective. However the current program requires some revision in order to make it more relative to the needs of people with disabilities.

Legislative Storm

June 29 1983

Dear Readers:

If you recall the temperature on Monday soared. The pavement in the city of Hartford radiated heat and the air felt heavy to breathe. A series of mishaps caused of this person (me) to be stranded at the State Capital waiting for a ride home to Milford, from my favorite representative.

After spending a very long afternoon in the sweltering confines of the legislative chamber listening to our state representatives trying to wrap up the few remaining items on their agendas for this special session, things started to happen.

Around 5 p.m. the sky darkened, the wind whipped up and the rains came down in a a torrential burst breaking the heat of the day and beating everything in sight with soaking ferocity. The legislators attempted to finish regardless that the weighty velvet drapes on the chamber windows were flapping at 90-degree angles and the dedicated people in the back rows straining to concentrate were getting wet.

The speaker of the house finally called it quits for the day about 5:30 p.m. to a crescendo of thunder and lightning and the voting box going out.

Audible sighs of relief could be heard from everyone as they walked outside. Relieved to be getting out of there, and that the storm had let up enough for those without rain-gear to get to their cars without suffering for it.

Meg's favorite Representative was her brother TJ. This passage shows off her creative writing style

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photographs and other content courtesy of the Casey family unless noted
blog posts and art by Meg Casey
originally published 1982 to 1985 in the Milford Citizen newspaper