EDITOR COLUMN - July 2019

It’s been a long, wet summer, and that’s made it very hard to be outside. Some days I even find it kind of hard to look outside because when it’s overcast, in my mind’s eye it seems very hot out there. So I think for me this is going to be a summer of indoor activities. And wouldn’t you know it, the air conditioning in my van went out.

When I first started driving, the cars I had didn’t have a/c. But I can’t imagine that anymore. And I don’t want to.

Another reason the summer has become less sunny is that we’ve lost two wonderful leaders in the disability community. For me, both were important mentors. I wouldn’t be writing this if it weren’t for Jen Mundl. I went to Courage Center back in the nineties to learn how to use the computer in my daily life and to prepare me to back to college. Jenny patiently taught me all the latest software, and I’m still using all of it (well, except for Lotus 1-2-3). She was an educator to the core. I spent many hours studying, practicing, taking quizzes and learning to manage the computer with Jenny looking over my shoulder and guiding me. Besides being a great teacher, she was a great mentor; I could go to her for advice on many subjects. I think she probably got tired of some of my questions, but she was a very easy person to talk to and she’d give you the true nitty-gritty about disability and her life. She’s gone way too early and unexpectedly. I’ll miss her, right along with all of her students, friends and colleagues.

John Schatzlein was everybody’s friend and a champion for everyone. I first met John the day that I was injured, 45 years ago this month. He was doing an internship as a counselor for people with disabilities at the University of Minnesota Hospital. There is no question that I would not be alive today if it weren’t for John’s commitment to letting me know that living with a disability would not be the end of the world, or of my chances for achieving my dreams. I’ve heard a similar story from many others about John’s key role as a mentor and friend when they were newly injured members of this community. For many years I would just go to wherever John was working at the time and take a lunch break with him. If I couldn’t find John, he was off playing wheelchair basketball or sled hockey or coaching the team for the Paralympics. He was quite a world-traveling athlete, and like any athlete, he paid the price of body aches and injuries—but his were compounded by his disabilities. He was a scholar as well as an athlete, and a deeply spiritual man. John wrote a column on spirituality for Access Press for many years. In the last few years it’s been harder for me to get together with him as he was dealing with many medical issues. But not a week went by that I didn’t think of him and how he would advise me, and I valued every conversation we ever had.

Some significant legislation went into effect on July 1. The enhanced reimbursement rate for direct support professionals doing complex care got another increase. Any PCAs out there who work for a client who is eligible for 12 or more hours a day of PCA services can complete online training and get this increase in pay. You can contact DHS (or Google “DHS PCA enhanced rate”) and get details on how to complete the training and apply for the enhanced rate. For those who already work as a PCA, the training is probably just going to test what you already know.

Keep the people we’ve lost in your prayers, and stay safe. Get outside even though it is warm and humid, because after all, it is summer. See you at the ADA celebration on July 26!

We have an article with an update on the Olmstead Plan. In its time, the Olmstead act is going to be as powerful a document as the ADA act. Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan will help the disability community by driving how independent living is legislated and funded for seniors and people with disabilities.

Keep the people we’ve lost in your prayers, and stay safe. Get outside even though it is warm and humid, because after all, it is summer. Don’t forget that July 26 we will have the annual ADA celebration (see the ENJOY! section, p. 11 of our print edition for agenda and location). I look forward to seeing you there!