Friday, June 9, 2017

Ac·cess (ak’ses), n. The right to enter or make use of.

Ac·cess (ak’ses), n. The right to enter or make use of.

by Louis Patrick
From the Declaration! Vol. 3 No. 3 March 1989
The word Declaration in old script
If you have to wage a war, you don't want to fight it block by block, building to building, house to house, room to room up and down every corridor, elevator shaft and stairwell, inch by bloody inch. That's street fighting at its worst. And that, quite literally, is the way we're having to wage the war against the architectural barriers that stand between us and our participation as full citizens of our communities, that keep us out of our churches, out of voting booths, county commission meetings and the workplace, that imprison us in our own homes.

Louis Patrick
We should be winning, at least on the front lines, in the suburbs. Every time a new building goes up - if the local officials responsible for enforcing Tennessee's Public Buildings Accessibility Act are doing their job, as they are in Memphis - disabled citizens take another building, another block. But we also have to wage a rear guard, guerilla war. If what we hear from our compatriots across the state is true, the Act is not being enforced in many communities. It's also questionable whether state officials have established the network necessary to get information to architects and contractors working here about Tennessee's accessibility law. And in too many rural towns and older neighborhoods there simply isn't enough new growth or renovation to begin to shift the balance toward a barrier free environment.

Not surprisingly, we often get so involved in the fight to take one more restaurant, one more office building, that we forget our ultimate goal. We want an open, accessible society where every trace of barriers has been eradicated, but we need to stand back and take a long, hard look at how we plan to achieve that aim.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) developed its first standards for accessibility in 1961, but the most important sentence in that document may be :"This standard does not establish which occupancy or building types are covered and the extent to which each type is covered."ANSI tells builders how to make a structure accessible, not that they have to. It's all tape measure, inches and feet; no teeth. We're looking for "have to," not just "how to".  

We want a law-with alligator teeth and bear claws - that requires buildings to be accessible. We also want that law to have the broadest possible scope, to apply to every place in and around every kind of structure.

Louis Patrick in the 1980s
When the Tennessee legislature passed the Public Buildings Accessibility Act in 1970, it relied on ANSI to tell builders"how to"make buildings accessible. The Act required "public buildings" to be accessible but didn't spell out what a "public building" was, though state owned or operated buildings "used generally by the Public" were clearly included. The Act was amended in 1974 to cover not just publicly owned or leased buildings but "any building in the free enterprise system," including factories and office buildings. However. It still failed to detail "the extent to which each type is covered," to specify, for instance, the percentage of parking spaces or motel rooms that should be accessible.

In 1977 Tennessee amended the Act to adopt the Handicapped Section of the North Carolina State Building Code. In doing so we adopted not only North Carolina's mandatory specifications but its broad, clearly defined scope as well. It applies to virtually every new or renovated structure except single family homes and duplexes. It requires that assembly areas integrate seating accessible to wheelchair users and persons with other mobility impairments, 1% each, with regular seating, that 2% of parking spaces be reserved for handicapped parking and that those spaces be marked with signs at eye level it requires that 5% of apartment units be accessible or adaptable for use by wheelchair users.

When we adopted North Carolina's Code we got a great big snout full of alligator teeth. Unfortunately, we forgot some of the bear claws. We also overlooked some of the honey our neighbors had smeared on their Code - and we apparently forgot to ask permission to use their work.

North Carolina built its Code from the ground (ANSI) up in consultation with representatives of both persons with disabilities and the building industry. Carolina also enacted a tax credit "to offset the additional cost of construction of [accessible housing] units,” a "Bill of Rights for Handicapped People" which guarantees "the right of access to and use of publicly - and privately - owned spaces" and established a Special Office for the Handicapped "directed by an architect to provide interpretations, technical advice and information on compliance with code and legislative requirements for” accessibility.

There seems to have been a considerable stir in Tennessee over accessibility since the successful suit over  the lack of integrated, accessible seating in the Liberty Bowl renovation. A lot of folks working here have been calling North Carolina to find out just what their law says. Understandably, North Carolina doesn't want to answer for Tennessee law. To top things off, demand for copies of "An Illustrated Handbook of the Handicapped Section of the North Carolina State Building Code" suddenly skyrocketed west of the Smokies just as Carolina had let the Handbook go out of print because they were working on a fairly extensive revision of the Code.

All of which has caused a few people to question the wisdom of departing from the the de facto national standard for accessibility, ANSI. Apart from the legitimate concerns of architects and builders who have to deal with a multiplicity of standards, Tennessee has a long way to go. Adopting ANSI or any other standard, even keeping the North Carolina Code, without taking many of the same steps as Carolina wouldn't be wise.

The North Carolina Code is a good, strong law. The officials I've talked to there have been quite helpful and have indicated their willingness to work with Tennessee. It's up to us to establish a liaison with them. It's also up to us to enforce our chosen standard and to provide technical assistance and, hopefully, incentives to the building industry to comply with that standard. We need to get our act together.
Louis in the center of a group of people

Vocational Rehabilitation plans public hearing far from public transportation

Cordova Library more than a mile from a bus stop

By Christina Clift
On June 9, 2017 MCIL staff notified Joel Blackford about our concerns over the location of the public hearing in Memphis for Vocational Rehabilitation scheduled for June 27, 2017.  As it stands currently, the public meeting is being held in a location not accessible by public transportation. In fact, it is more than a mile from the closest bus stop.

Tennessee Vocational Rehabilitation Program (VR) is part of the state’s Disability Services and provides a variety of individualized services to persons with disabilities in preparation for their employment in the competitive labor market. But the choice of the Cordova Library seems to limit the participation from the people they intend to serve. Paratransit, the accessible service that runs alongside the Memphis public transit service, will only travel three-quarters of a mile from the current fixed-route system to provide additional accessibility. MATAplus will not serve the location that VR selected for the hearing.

Sidewalk ends on the route to the Cordova Library south view
The library site is more than a mile from the nearest bus stop on Germantown Parkway. If someone was to take public transit, not only would they have to walk more than a mile, but there are no sidewalks in sections along the route on Trinity Road. On both sides of the street, divided by a median, the sidewalk just ends.

Four Vocational Rehabilitation draft policies are currently available for public review and comment, they include: 
Comments on these policies can be sent to Joel Blackford by email at, by phone at (615) 313-4898, or by mail to 400 Deaderick Street, 12th Floor, Nashville, TN 37243. Comments will be received until close of business July 13, 2017.

If Vocational Rehabilitation truly wants public input regarding changes in policy, they must hold the meetings where potential and existing clients can attend.  Unless the decision is changed the meeting will be held at the Cordova Library located at 8457 Trinity Road at 4:00 PM on June 27, 2017. 

If you believe that this meeting should be moved to a location accessible to all,  contact Joel Blackford at (615) 313-4898 or by e-mail at and ask them to move the meeting so that all voices can be heard.
Route to the Cordova Library sidewalk ends north view

Thursday, June 8, 2017


By Louis Patrick

Louis Patrick
I got into one of "those" discussions recently. A fellow I was talking to on the telephone  began to harangue me about "those" lazy people who live in the projects. Even with opportunities aplenty and years of practice, I still have no idea of how to grapple with the prejudices and misconceptions behind such “discussions" in a positive manner. Instead, I tried to divert our chat to the disincentives which persons with disabilities face in trying to work, the loss of not only money benefits, but of medical insurance, of housing subsidies, the problems of trying to pay for attendant care. ‘Oh, no!’, the person said, ‘I wasn’t talking about handicapped people.’

He didn't use the words, but what he meant was that disabled persons are among the"deserving poor." That phrase is supposed to imply that while we are indeed poor, it's through no fault of our own, through no sin of sloth or laziness that we are so and that we thus "deserve" to be helped, to be supported (albeit poorly), to be taken care of.

Many of us buy into that image. Consider for a moment, however, whether that doesn't buy us into the reverse side of that coin: disabled people "deserve" to be poor.

There's no question that disabled people have "special" needs, that we need services beyond those other students require to get an education, that we have to stretch an already limited budget to buy equipment that allows us to get around or write or talk. The list could go on, of course. What's left out of a Social Security check to buy theater tickets with?

Louis Patrick
lf, however, we, as disabled people, continue to focus our hopes on charity and our efforts on obtaining “special" discounts and favors, we will only succeed in perpetuating our poverty and dependency. Our problem isn't that we don't have enough coupons in our our wallets. It's cash we're short of. Let’s stop wasting time begging and start asking that are responsible - to us - for spending millions of dollars for vocational rehabilitation why employment opportunities for persons with disabilities are still virtually nonexistent. Let's get real, honest to God, bloody tired of being poor!

With the proper "special" education and training and the proper "special" equipment we can function competitively in society. More importantly, we can become fully contributing citizens. We have an “inalienable” right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” a right to take responsibility for ourselves that we can't give away and no one can take from us.

We owe our loyalty to those who fight for equality and to those who “want the option of not having to say 'thank you'"; a quote attributed to John Hockenberry of National Public Radio. We have an obligation to one another to say "No thanks. I’d rather be able to pay my own way.”
Louis Patrick

Louis David Patrick, Jr.

Louis David Patrick, Jr. 1947 - 2017

Memphis, TN
Louis David Patrick, Jr. passed away on June 1 from

Louis Patrick
complications of adenocarcinoma. He was born in Memphis in 1947 to Louis Patrick Sr. and Daisy Patrick. Although Louis contracted polio in 1950 and lost the use of his legs, he was very independent until the last few months of his life. He attended the Shrine School, Sherwood Elementary, Overton High school and finally Memphis State University, where he met and married Sheila DeLozier in 1968 and earned his BA in 1975 with a major in History.

Although he worked at a number of jobs, the one that was closest to his heart was with the Center for Independent Living. On October 1, 1985, Louis, Deborah Cunningham, Fred Dinwiddie, Nigel Shapcott, and Michael Heinrich signed articles of incorporation for Access All Areas, the declaration of independence for MCIL as an organization run and controlled by people with disabilities. Until then, what was to become MCIL was part of West Tennessee Easter Seals, which was not controlled by and for people with disabilities. 

Louis described that life-changing experience this way: "I had been 'passing'--living and working outside the doubly segregated world of disability--since I had started public school at Sherwood Junior High in 9th grade. Had the CIL not been a very, very different way of serving people with disabilities, I would never have been interested in working there. Deborah Cunningham set me on the road to understanding the history and strength of the independent living movement."

After retiring from Fed Ex in 2003, Louis served on the Board of Directors for MCIL, several times as president. He chaired two committees for the MACCD, Memphis Advisory Council for Citizens with Disabilities: the Memphis Transportation Advisory Committee (MTAC) and the Housing Community Access Committee (HCA). He worked for the adoption by the City Council of a "visitability" ordinance to assure that new homes built in Memphis with public funding be more accessible to individuals using wheel chairs. He also worked on accessibility for the Liberty Bowl a Citizen's Pedestrian Advisory Council to improve sidewalks and other pedestrian facilities in Memphis, participated in a HUD investigation of fairness in renting apartments to individuals with disabilities, and submitted recommendations to the Overton Park Conservancy to improve accessibility in that park. Louis also worked on an Advisory Committee of Memphis' Engineering Department to form a "Pedestrian & Schools Safety Action Plan" and the Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization's "Mobility Summit." Louis also worked with the University of Tennessee's Physical Therapy Department, allowing students to "practice" on himself, teaching them about his own experience. He also worked for many years with state representative Mike Kernell.

All these forms of advocacy and activism tell only a fraction of the story of who Louis Patrick was, however. He was fascinated with language and loved to discuss history and genealogy. His appreciation of beauty and joy of life were infectious. He was the epitome of the ideal gentleman, tender hearted and generous but firmly grounded in principles of justice and decency. He is survived by his aunt, Melrine Roleson, and a host of cousins and nieces and nephews who admired and loved him dearly.

Visitation will be held on Thursday, June 8 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Forest Hill Cemetery mid-town at 1661 S. Elvis Presley Blvd. The memorial service will be at the same location on Friday at 2 p.m. Those who would like to make a contribution in lieu of flowers are encouraged to send donations to the Memphis Center for Independent Living at 1633 Madison Ave, 38104. The Center has also invited guests to attend a reception at that location following the service.

Louis Patrick at an MCIL event


Published in The Commercial Appeal on June 8, 2017