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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: ‘That could be me’ is an odd reason to advocate for disabled people

Broken L.A. sidewalks
A woman in a wheelchair outside Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I was heartened by Nita Lelyveld’s column highlighting the challenges physically disabled citizens face navigating Los Angeles. I especially appreciated her wealth of detail and research.

But I was quite disappointed to read the reason she gave for her rallying cry. Lelyveld wrote at the end of her column, “This could be us. Therefore this is unacceptable.”

Is social change motivated only by what affects us personally? Must our ethical considerations filter through a lens of our own self-interest?

If “this could be us” is what makes this discrimination intolerable, then consider issues that may never impact your life but deeply compromise the lives of others. Are you unmoved by children in cages, disproportionately high rates of black incarceration or elephants killed for ivory? The list goes on.

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Without a higher system of ethics, compassion and a vision of how we want life to be for all planetary inhabitants, I fear for our humanity itself.

Laurie Levit, Santa Monica

..

To the editor: I’ve been a paraplegic in a wheelchair for more than 30 years. I’m 62. I remember before there were curb cuts.

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Before I became disabled there were no concessions to disability at all. As I became disabled things were changing. I used to have to call ahead to ask if places were wheelchair accessible. I would be told yes, and then show up and find small steps. Often the reply would be, “Oh, I don’t count those.”

I haven’t experienced the difficulties mentioned by Lelyveld in at least 20 years.

It is true that the city’s sidewalks are not in good repair. I’m in a power wheelchair now. (Electric chairs are for felons.) My chair can handle almost anything I encounter. There are many ramps that are too steep. Manual chairs can’t handle them. Sometimes I can’t handle them.

People’s attitudes have changed a lot over the years. I did used to get unwanted help. Now I travel faster than the average pedestrian. Often someone says I should wait for them to open the door for me. If the door needs pushing instead of pulling I can push it with the chair. If someone opens a door for me, i find just thanking them is faster than trying to explain a new view.

A lot has changed over the years. This is the best time and place to be disabled.

Lake Nofer, Woodland Hills


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