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Started by Paraplegic : Newsletter Answers Needs of Disabled

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Times Staff Writer

Someday when he can afford it, Paul Aziz plans to install a business phone in his modest home in La Canada Flintridge.

Until then, Aziz, a former Glendale police officer who is now a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair, will continue to answer his home phone with “Moving Forward Publications. May I help you?”

Moving Forward is the new bimonthly tabloid published by Aziz and Patricia Adams, 21, of Glendale, a college student who majors in special education and works part time as an interpreter for the deaf. The tabloid, aimed at the disabled, is both the reason why Aziz needs a business phone and the reason why he said he can’t afford one.

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In the last year, Aziz, 24, invested his time, energy and money in printing 18,000 copies of Moving Forward’s first edition, which appeared in November. Putting out that issue, Aziz said, was like working a full-time job in addition to his regular one as a civilian dispatcher for the Glendale Police Department. Except for two brief articles provided by contributing writers, Aziz and Adams were responsible for all copy that filled its eight pages.

Wants to ‘Go National’

The two spent many long nights, Adams recalled, working in the makeshift composing room consisting of drafting table, light table, word processor, stacks of magazines and books, rulers, pens, pencils and paste pots in a spare room of Aziz’s home on Foothill Boulevard. And, as Aziz gathers together copy for a second issue of Moving Forward to be published in January, he is dreaming of “going national.”

“It’s an obsession,” explained Aziz, who was paralyzed from the chest down in May, 1983, after he dived into shallow water off a dock on the Colorado River and hit his head on a sand bar. “It’s not the money. It’s not the prestige of being famous. It’s just to get information to people.”

Moving Forward is an outgrowth of Aziz’s frustration in adjusting to his handicap and the problems of accessibility once released after six months at Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital in Inglewood. “If you don’t have contact with a therapist that has a lot of information to give you, you don’t know where to go,” Aziz said. “You don’t know what to do.

‘It’s a Shock’

“It’s a shock to suddenly be handicapped. But it’s even harder to try to put your life back together once you’re released from medical care. Then you’re on your own.”

Aziz said the problem isn’t so much that the information isn’t available but that it is a chore to track down. Many publications that deal with the disabled, Aziz said, are often geared to a specific disability. He could find the answer to one question in one publication but would have to go to another source to answer a second question. There is no one source, Aziz said, that answers in detail the questions that people with different disabilities might share.

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And, he added, most of the articles he came across in his research were not “personal” enough. “There was not much (to read) about relationships or sex.”

Adams, a junior at California State University, Northridge, is not disabled but shares her friend’s frustration. “Once he was out of the hospital, there wasn’t this source of information coming in. So we decided to publish something that would give people information once they left the hospital,” she said.

‘Practical’ Information

With Moving Forward, the two hope to present practical information and feature stories that will help show the disabled “how to get up and do things and not be lazy,” Aziz said. The first 18,000 copies of the tabloid were printed at a cost of $5,000, which was shared by Adams, Aziz and Aziz’s father, Ed. The first edition, which contained a few paid ads, was distributed free.

Aziz said that the response to Moving Forward was beyond his expectations. About 300 persons have ordered a $6 yearly subscription, he said. “The thing that just made us ecstatic over this was getting letters from people. When we got our first subscription, we nearly went through the roof.”

Aziz figures that the money from subscriptions and increased advertising will cover most of the cost of the second issue. He and Adams plan to expand the second issue to 12 pages and increase the press run to 25,000. He would like to keep subscription costs for home deliveries low and continue to distribute copies of Moving Forward free to organizations and offices that serve the disabled.

Months of Research

In gathering material for their publication, Aziz and Adams said they spent months researching other publications for the disabled, including newsletters put out by organizations and the magazines Mainstream, Accent on Living and Paraplegic News.

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“We learned more of what they didn’t have than what they did have,” said Adams, who also coaches track and field for the Special Olympics. “Once we knew where we were going, all we had to decide was what we wanted to put in the paper.”

The first issue includes a short article on a community work program for retarded teen-agers in La Canada Flintridge. The program is run by Oak Grove School, which instructs the developmentally disabled in the foothill area. Other articles cover Olympic wheelchair races, a canine companion program, new products to aid the disabled, crime prevention, choosing a car and how to meet the non-disabled socially.

It lists telephone numbers and addresses of other sources of information and services for the disabled. For instance, on the back page “Bulletin Board” there is a listing for the Southern California Rapid Transit District hot line for the disabled that includes a phone number for the hearing-impaired.

In the last two months, Aziz and Adams said, they have distributed nearly all of the first edition with the help of friends and relatives. Most were left in selected Southland locations such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, independent living centers for the disabled, college campuses, government offices, convalescent homes and centers for the elderly. About 1,000 have been sent by way of friends to San Francisco, Sacramento, Oregon, Texas and Florida.

Distribution Points Marked

“We didn’t just go to the Galleria and drop off stacks of papers,” Aziz said, showing a map of Los Angeles County where the distribution points have been marked with a small forest of pins. “We went to places where we knew that the papers would be read by disabled people or persons that deal with disabled people--doctors, therapists, relatives, friends.”

One of the places where Moving Forward is now available is the Pasadena office of the state Department of Rehabilitation. Carol Collins, a rehabilitation counselor, was given a copy of Moving Forward by a friend and later asked Aziz for more copies. Collins was impressed.

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“This is a very good centralized source of information for the handicapped,” she said. “It’s probably the best voice for the handicapped that I’ve seen. If the other issues are as professionally done and informative as this, we’re looking forward to a long relationship.”

Collins said she would like to contribute an article. And Aziz and Adams said that would be fine. They are seeking a variety of material--articles, poems, photos--from both the disabled and the non-disabled.

Aziz said that if the publication becomes self-supporting, he will be ready to quit the dispatcher’s job he has held for the last year and work at his obsession full time: “I would love to put in 100 hours a week doing this.”

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