Monday, April 25, 2011

Disability Fair

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peal... Today the Watchman sounded off with the Naperville City Council (yes, again).

Dear Naperville City Council,

I note with disappointment the council's approval of funding for the annual 'disability fair'.  As a disabled Naperville citizen and perhaps the most vocal disability rights advocate in the city, I tell you this expenditure is utterly unnecessarily.  There are numerous private sector 'disability fairs' throughout the area and the city has no business wasting taxpayer dollars to duplicate what the private sector already provides.

Some may argue it's a small expenditure (approx $3K) and it helps the disabled residents, so what's the beef?  If you share that sentiment I invite you to revisit the purpose of municipal government -- or of any government.  It is most certainly not to attempt to cure all the ills of society.  Disability is an ill, to be sure.  I'm wheelchair bound and face this challenge every day.  But I vehemently object to the notion of a nanny state with tentacles extending into every facet of private life, no matter how supposedly altruistic the nanny state's intentions.  Thomas Jefferson understood this problem well when he said, "I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them."

It is not the council's job to 'take care of' disabled citizens by sponsoring an information fair with a disability focus.  It is, however, the council's job to ensure that city services and facilities are made accessible according to state and federal law.  Disabled access is a civil right (and has been acknowledged so by overwhelming votes in the US Congress and the State Legislature) and the city is obliged to spend taxpayer dollars ensuring this civil right.  So please redirect the funds misguidedly allocated to an un-mandated 'information fair' to the legally mandated obligation of providing accessible city services and programs.

The disability fair has a less visible but even worse impact than wasting taxpayer dollars.  The city's Advisory Commission on Disabilities spends most of its time and efforts every year on this fair, distracting it from it's higher duty of monitoring and advising the council and staff on shortcomings in the accessibility of city services and facilities (and there are countless shortcomings).  This is the primary reason I do not participate on the ACD, although I have been asked to consider such participation.  The ACD's focus is misguided and the city suffers from a lack of what should be their watchdog activities.

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