Meg Casey
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"Most Able Disabled"

Meg Casey's handicapped issues column

Nesting by Meg Casey
Nesting by Meg Casey
photo courtesy of the Casey family

Handicapped Housing

Accessible Apartments

March 2 1983

Dear Meg,

Do they have apartments for the disabled. How much and where?

John P.

Dear John P.

What are you, a wise guy? You think you're playing stump the stars? Do I look like a quarry worker? Well, I tell you, I've turned over more rocks for you than anyone has and my answer is "Nope!" Not under anything I've looked under. You're living in an inaccessible world, Buddy. If God wanted ramps all over the place, he would put them there to start with. So you just better sit there suffering and like it, you hear? Only kidding.

Actually I'm only partially kidding with you because some of the responses I got over the telephone were just about same one I used on you clowning around in my frustration. And I was only looking into it for you! I can't imagine what condition I'd be in if it were for me.

Housing for the disabled, accessible housing, is pretty limited, practically nonexistent in Milford, and generally restricted in most areas to the elderly and handicapped housing projects or Section Eight housing. Both are for a low income. I contacted the Milford Housing Authority and the office of Milford building inspector in order to get the lay of the land here in town but the pickings were really slim.

The new Joseph DeMaio Project off of Meadowside Road has seven accessible apartments in the main building and three accessible units in the new housing complex just completed in front of the main one. These are all for the low income elderly and handicapped citizens. (And there are waiting lists.)

Rent in Section Eight Housing is based on the individual's monthly income and would be 30 percent of whatever the sum of money is. There isn't much of it in Milford so I branched out to neighboring cities and enlisted the aid of the Bridgeport Office of Handicapped Services and the Center of Independent Living of Greater Bridgeport and that of RESPOND in New Haven. Each of these agencies replied kindly and quickly, sending me lists of the available accessible housing projects in their areas.

However, again these projects are for low income senior citizen and handicapped persons.

It seems there are no provisions anywhere for the disabled, middle class, independent wage earner for today. You must be either very poor to live independently, or very rich. That's rich enough to afford an elevatored, pushbutton penthouse or able to buy yourself a human chain that can simply "pass you around through life."

I can't help but wonder why the government wastes so much funding rehabilitation centers for independent living skills when there is no "reality" to add to the incentive of the actual physical achievement. After applause stops, then what?

I asked this question of my state representative, who is also my brother, T. J. Casey. He told me that there are many bills going before the legislature dealing with the issues of importance to the disabled and that housing is a big issue. But there is still no glimpse of relief in sight for the disabled person who is young, lively and active and who would like to be living in an environment conducive to that lifestyle, too. I can just see me living in an elderly housing facility. I'd drive the neighbors crazy. (I DO drive my neighbors crazy.)

T. J. recommended that I write a letter to my Senator's office and address my feelings on the subject. That would provide a piece of a tangible evidence of the constituent's concern.

This of course I will do, and maybe if you write to him also, maybe others who read this will write. Then maybe, someday we'll see some results. Maybe …

Handicapped Middle Class

May 15 1985

Hello Readers,

Housing is being built designed around the needs of persons with severe physical disabilities.

Everyone is up on the problems of the independent minded disabled persons know the frustrations faced trying to deal with a solo flight in a world that is not quite equipped as yet for them to take off. In the area finding an independent non-medical – housing situation that is accessible and affordable for the handicapped in the New Haven or Bridgeport area, State of Connecticut or the nation, the selection is virtually non-existent. If accessible housing is available at all it is restricted to low income Section 8 housing where poverty level earnings are used as the maximum level of measurement for eligibility, senior citizen complex situations which are again based on lower income requirements and do not allow for the young family-minded couples to raise their children, nor for the active lifestyles of a modern young adult setting out on his or her own. The other options today are available only to the financially "well–off," in high-priced penthouse apartment and condominium complex – or to the "wisely insured" who managed to meet the correct plan of eligibility for the various nursing homes set up in a medical environment.

As you can plainly see, the middle class wage earner once again falls through the cracks in the system.

If you, your spouse, or your mom make too much money, chances are that you'll be turned down for services … or given a very hard time and getting them straightened out.

Too often the person with a disability has been forced to accept or live life under the threat of institutionalization.

Vehement Opposition To Group Homes

October 12 1983

Dear Meg,

I have read a few articles in recent months regarding the establishment of "Group Homes" for the disabled in the community where they might live together in a shared, somewhat monitored, secure and home-like environment set up in homes located in family type neighborhoods. I think that this is a marvelous idea! I have difficulty believing that anyone could "vehemently" oppose a project of this kind starting up in his or her community. What is so frightening about the whole thing?

K.C.

Hi K.C.

I was wondering if your use of the word frightening was intentional or if it slipped out of your mind without you realizing just how appropriate a word it was for this situation. I believe those prospective neighbors are frightened by ignorance. Their own ignorance of what exactly a person with a disability is, – what "they" are like, what "they" do, and how one goes about "getting" in that condition begin with.

That sounds ridiculous I know but I assure you that people who need to be educated in this basic manner really do exist and that they are not as rare as either of us would like to think.

Even though things are much better today for the disabled person than in the past, the societies of the world are only just beginning to recognize the wasted potential of the disabled citizenry. Some are now trying to understand where they went wrong in the treatment of those people and how to set about undoing it all.

The ignorant soles of today are products of the societies throughout the ages who blindly continued to repeat mistakes and old customs of proceeding generations without ever known the justification of the actions they carried out. Anyone or thing that went against that order of life was not understood and therefore posed a direct threat to their sense of security. To many the unknown is terrifying. It is to these people that all of the Awareness Activities about people with disabilities, and even this column, is directed and meant to educate. We offer a format whereby people can learn about one another in a dignified manner. We give an outlet for asking the questions that have been locked up inside for too long because curiosity about such matters was "taboo." I can tell the kids in school that without curiosity a person can't learn. Unless a person learns he won't grow to expand his horizons to full potential.

The de-institutionalization of people with disabilities into a Group Home situation is no threat to public safety. No one unable to maintain him or her self in society would be put in jeopardy of having to deal with the rest of the crazy members of the society at large before he or she was emotionally and physically ready to deal with it. Nor will the conditions be contagious. There are some really wonderful people in this world and they come in all shapes, colors and sizes.

The problem of hiding and institutionalizing the disabled took centuries to build to this stage and it is going to take more than a day to dismantle. With patience, a stubborn determination and some more people like you to spread a few positive thoughts around perhaps the task will be a little easier to accomplish. Thanks!

Allowing Disabled Be Helpful

February 8 1984

Dear Meg,

I have some concerns for my grandmother. Last winter she slipped on the ice on her front steps and fell down injuring her hip. Continuing to maintain the old house and living there all alone is no longer a practical possibility; so it was decided by the family that it would be in her best interest to sell the old house and property, invest the money and for Gram to move in with one of her children on a permanent basis.

That arrangement hasn't worked out quite as wonderful as I had originally anticipated. This once independent woman is now trapped by her physical condition and is not allowed to do anything for or by herself as if she were senile. If she attempts to try something alone she's treated like a misbehaving child.

I am also of the opinion that is the effects that it is the effects of the medications that could be responsible for her dulled reflexes. Perhaps if the dosages were readjusted properly, my grandmother would be more secure on her own two feet and her vision and judgement more reliable. Then the relatives might relax more with her. My concern is that Gram is becoming as frustrated by her present situation as I fear that I would be if people monitored my every move. The more I allow myself to fret about it the more furious I become with my relatives. So, before I start a feud I thought I'd get an unbiased view from someone with a level head on her shoulders.

From a Sincere Fan

Hello Sincere Fan,

Your grandmother's predicament sounds very similar to my own grandmother's in her later years of life. It is a difficult situation to try to solve perfectly so that everyone is happy.

Your grandmother is lucky to be with your family as long as they want and appreciate her. Nursing homes can be grim places to visit at times when someone is unloved. If your grandmother's behavior and reflexes are clumsy, slow or dulled as if in a drugged or drunken state it very well could point to a problem or side effect of the medication prescribed for her. It would be wise to check that possibility out as soon as it could be arranged, for everyone's peace of mind.

If your grandmother can be assisted to find ways to increase her independence again to the full extent that she can physically achieve it, then things should be better for everyone living in that household. She will not only be one less person to be taken care of, she will become one more person to help do whatever needs to be done.

Grandmas are wonderful people to have around! My suggestion is that you first sit down and try to have a serious, direct conversation with your grandmother about your concern. See if she is lucid and can understand you or if she acts drugged. If she is alert, then make sure she wants your interference on her behalf. If she says "yes," then sit down and talk to your relatives about it along with her. Let your grandmother express her own views as much as possible. All she may need to begin is to know that you are there to support her should any relatives be adverse to your suggestions for emancipation.

Once again open communication is the answer. Just stick together, stick your guns and stick to the point …you should do fine from there.

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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