Mayor Says People With Disabilities Should Not Be Segregated

October is Disability Awareness Month and Houston Mayor Annise Parker says it's a time to raise public awareness of the positive contributions of people with disabilities.

The city's annual celebration is sponsored by the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, Houston Parks and community partners. The theme of the 4th annual event INCLUSION TREASURES DIVERSITY AND BUILDS COMMUNITY. Many of the city's estimated 600-thousand people with disabilities took part, including Dr Lex Frieden, a professor at the UT Health Science Center Houston. He also directs the program Independent Living Research at TIRR. He became a quadraplegic after an auto accident put him in a wheelchair in 1967:

"My therapists at TIRR told me that I could do anything that I had done before I broke my neck, if l could figure out how to do that on four wheels. And I believed that, until I applied for admission to a university, and they told me that I would not be allowed admission because I used a wheelchair."

He helped craft the Americans with Disabilities Act which was signed into law by President George HW Bush in 1990:

"Today hopefully, young people who have disabilities, won't be denied admission to a unviersity, to a job or to any other facility or program because they have a disability."

David Fowler is with the Paralyzed Veterans of America. He says his life changed after a diving accident while in the Army in 1984:

"When I first got hurt, I thought my life was over. But with the dedicated work of some pioneers like Lex Frieden and others, they really have made the world accessible for people with disabilities. And when I go to the VA and work and speak with our new injuries, coming back from these two wars, any kind of strophic injury, it's a real life-changing difficult experience to overcome."

Mayor Annise Parker says the law mandates many things for the disabled, but it cannot change people's hearts and minds:

"As baby boomers age and begin to discover that they're not physically where they were before, that maybe we will revise how we feel about people with different abilities."

PH: "So the sentiment needs to change, nonetheless?"

Parker: "It shouldn't be about being forced to do things because of law, but because we recognize that we really want to have access for everyone, to enjoy the fruits of living in a great city or in a great society."

She says the Mayor's office for People with Disabilities helps advocate for men and women who can't do it themselves.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF News.

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Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...