Thursday, July 29, 2010

Americans with Disabilities Act anniversary

All this week I have been seeing and hearing that July 26, Monday was the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA by President Bush, senior. I had not realized that it was that long ago.

I have not seen much in the way of results from this act, actually. I know, from reading on the web, that my old dormitory in Graduate School, International House at the University of Chicago has finally been retrofitted for wheelchair access. Decades after I lived there. Still it is good to see.

Ramps still seem to be constructed at too high a pitch for many people with manual wheelchairs to use independently. I have often thought that the people who use them ought to be consulted, rather than merely putting able-bodied architects to work on them.

Physical access isn't really the primary issue, though, in my opinion. Financial access is the primary issue. In a world in which able-bodied people work at home from their computers, this functionality should be available to the disabled as well.

Micro-entrepreneurship should be encouraged as well. The Department of Labor, the Small Business Administration and even the Social Security Administration all comment on their web-sites that disabled people have a higher success rate than non-disabled people in starting our own businesses and making them succeed.

Barriers exist here, however, and I think that it is important to bring them down. The greatest barrier is the paternalism of the culture of disability benefits that has been set by the Social Security Administration itself. For years I have called this the "institutionalized poverty of disability benefits."

The amount that people can earn while still receiving benefits needs to be set higher. The discrimination against the "non-blind" disabled (SSA's designation) in favor of the "blind" disabled needs to be set right. Specifically the earning formula for the "non-blind" needs to be raised to that of the "blind" category. Or, better yet, people need to be allowed to work half-time at whatever is customary and usual for their field in their area (or half the median income in their area, if they are self-employed.) If this were done, there would be a greater incentive for many people to earn. The reason that it is so important to maintain the benefits is that if the cash benefit goes away so does medical care and that is so necessary that many people trade trying to get out of poverty for not living in fear of no medical care.

Greater earning power on the part of the disabled would decrease the need for ancillary services such as In-Home Support services that are constantly endangered by budget cuts. Greater earning power on the part of the disabled would increase the tax revenue bases from the federal down to the local level.

Another barrier for micro-entrepreneurs is the lack of capital and the lack of marketing and networking skills. I think that local communities could do a great deal to help by setting up grant programs and mentoring and networking help. Local Chambers of Commerce could do a great deal here by establishing memberships at no cost for the first year or two for small businesses owned by disabled entrepreneurs who can show that they are at a cash disadvantage. Community service organizations could join in as well, providing, along with the Chambers, mentoring and networking help.

Individuals, neighbors and friends, church members could help too by patronizing such small businesses and thereby giving the best encouragement that there is--increase in cash-flow.

Poverty does not exist only in the Third World; it is here in our local communities. Many of the poorest members of our communities are disabled--disabled by poverty as well as by the physical bodies which do not function as well as others do. Lets change this and make the disabled fully economically empowered as the ADA originally intended.

Look for and support the businesses of your disabled friends and neighbors. Please. Thank you.

I am grateful for being able to make this message available and I hope that it helps others as well as myself.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Garbling Herbs

Saturday I spent a delightful two hours garbling peppermint. Garbling is the old-fashioned and technical term used by herbalists to denote the process of stripping dried herb leaves from their stems. When I was finished I had a quart bag of the most beautiful, delicious smelling peppermint leaves and a pile of equally aromatic stems.

The peppermint was organically grown and then dried by my friend, G, who has a magnificent garden in the hills above Silicon Valley. She generously shared her harvest with me.

I love the word, "garbling". Like a little kid with a new word, I have been repeating it every chance I get over the last week.

The weather has returned to normal for us. Cool in the mornings and warm but not hot in the afternoons. A blessed and beautiful sea breeze comforts us and makes it possible to enjoy the long days, rather than trying to hide from the light, which also means heat.

Last night as I opened the curtain in one room, to let this delicious air through, I noticed that my neighbor's pomegranate tree still has flowers on it. I have been wondering for several weeks how much longer the flowers would last and when the fruit would show. It is there now. Small, shiny red balls set just above the flowers look like Christmas ornaments. So beautiful and so promising!

Another friend brought me a peck of Gravenstein apples yesterday. I should freeze apple slices for later, but will probably share them instead. Peeling is one of the small hand tasks my hands no longer like to do and I prefer to comfort them with easy tasks rather than push them in frustration.

Gratitude is large in my mind this morning. Gratitude for beautiful things from friends' gardens, for the climate that I live in and for the gift of electricity. The house fan is running in the background, for the house is still stuffy. Without electricity none of the fans would work; the computer could never have even been imagined, let alone become so ubiquitous in our lives. Our lives would not be the same at all.

Still, while we depend on technology, we also do what our ancestors did, harvesting fruit and garbling herbs. I like the connections and am glad to be alive at this time.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Summer Notes

I seem to have taken an unintentional vacation from blogging! Summer's pace has quickened. More visits from friends, truly one of the best parts of this season. More decluttering of my house--will this never end? More product planning and product making. (A friend told me just this week that with one of my lavender sachets tucked into the pillowcase, she took the most refreshing nap she had ever had. I am pleased!)

I am weathering a heat wave, not my favorite part of summer. New, strong fans help a great deal. As I type, windows are open and fans are pulling cool air into the house. Soon it will be time to put the computer to sleep for the day, shut all the windows, pull all the blinds and curtains and hunker down for the long hours of daylight. It will be hot today and the cooling dark is a long way away. I am telling myself that it will come.

I am reading another Susan Wittig Albert book, one of her Beatrix Potter series. Very different voice, style and characters from her China Bayles series, which I absolutely love.

Need to do some research into the old USDA calorie counting book. Portions commonly used or something like that. Quite a few of the brand names have changed; the culprits remain the same--too many calories from carbs and fats.

Have noticed that consumption of too much soluble fiber increases chronic lower back pain. But what is called a "low-residue" diet, according to my Internet searches, is ghastly both from the standpoint of taste and nutrition. Where is the midway point? That always is the question.

The plumbing in the house was sluggish. Neighbors suggested, after plunging for me two times in three days, that the addition of a biodegradable micro-organism product for drains put into my "clean-out" drain might help. It did! Hurrah!

So today will be a day for fans, and a wet towel around my neck. I found the ice cap last night and was pleased--now do I have ice in the freezer? A friend will bring lunch, Safeway will deliver and maybe I can take a nap this afternoon. Then there will be one more day of this particular heat-wave and it should break. When it does, the feel of the air-flow off the ocean, the Bay Area's "natural air-conditioning" will be a benediction, reminding me that what one friend said recently, "Trust in God. God does always hear our prayers", will be true.

I am grateful for the cool air, the electricity that powers my fans and for survival. Hot weather always makes me think of the pioneers and reminds me that we are not in charge of the universe.