Friday, July 13, 2018

Early voting begins July 13

Friday the thirteenth - Early voting starts today. 

Remember you will need a photo ID to vote. To vote you must present a Federal or Tennessee state ID that has your name and photo when voting unless an exemption applies.  

Any of the following may be used, even if expired:

  • Tennessee driver’s license with your photo
  • United States Passport
  • Photo ID issued by the Federal or Tennessee state government
  • United States Military photo ID
  • Tennessee handgun carry permit with your photo

If you have concerns about a polling place, please call the Shelby County Operations Department at 901-222-6819.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Freedom from Fear Part 1

By Sheila Patrick

I will be the gladest thing under the sun.
I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.

I will look at cliffs and clouds with quiet eyes
Watch the wind bow down the grass
and the grass rise

And when the lights begin to show
up from the town
I will mark which must be mine
And then start down 
Edna St, Vincent Millay
Afternoon on a Hill

I am here to tell a story about my late husband, Louis Patrick, and about a political movement and organization that was very important to him and has become very important to me as well.

Louis Patrick
In 1950, when he was three years old, Louis contracted polio, also called infantile paralysis. In the first half of the twentieth century there were a number of epidemic waves of this disease. The worst and final wave of American cases was in 1952, two years after Louis contracted polio. 

Because the Salk and Sabin vaccines then immunized most American children and almost eliminated polio from the world, the numbers of survivors of polio are dwindling today, but while they were still a large population, many of that group led the disability rights movement in the sixties and later the independent living movement that caught fire in the eighties. 

Other people with disabilities also led in these developments, especially veterans of the Second World War, but the polio group was certainly a significant factor.  As I got to know Louis in the sixties, I noticed that many survivors of polio viewed obstacles to their mobility as solvable puzzles, rather than insuperable limitations. 

I like to think that part of the reason for this attitude was the example set by a very great man who contracted polio as an adult, a man my husband and I both admired very much even though he died before we were born. That man, of course, was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only president elected four times, and by whose achievements all subsequent presidents have been measured, and, in my view, found wanting, including great expectations for a new president’s first hundred days.

ADAPT activists in Washington DC
After FDR died, a Constitutional Amendment prevented anyone else from being elected more than twice, although it is unlikely that many of FDR’s successors could have achieved such a thing anyway, any more than they have met the standard of the Hundred Days.

FDR had been to the manor born and led a charmed life, with a promising political career, until 1921 when he became ill after visiting a Boy Scout camp. He never regained the use of his legs and might have spent the rest of his life as a secluded invalid except for his wife Eleanor, who supported, and may have even insisted on his return to politics.

To regain his strength as well as his morale, Franklin bought and refurbished a dilapidated resort in Warm Springs, Georgia and turned it into the first major institution for the treatment of infantile paralysis. I think the fact that most of the other residents at Warm Springs were children had a lot to do with FDR regaining his customary buoyant good spirits. At Warm Springs, FDR learned all he could about polio, developing new forms of treatment, a new design for crutches, and a system of hand controls that made it possible for him to enjoy driving his own car.

In 1928, just before the Great Depression threw the whole nation into shock, he officially re-entered political life, ran successfully for the office of governor of New York and then, in 1932, was elected for the first time as president. His first two administrations were consumed with addressing the Great Depression and the remainder of his presidency was spent in the effort to defeat fascism and forge a new international world order.

Both of these challenges were massive. Earlier presidents had despaired of the possibility of reversing economic catastrophe or breaking the pattern of stumbling from debacle to debacle in a world with appallingly and increasingly destructive military technology. FDR, however, sought experimental approaches to these intractable problems and was more successful than anyone thought possible.

Louis Patrick at the Nashville ADAPT action
At his inauguration, FDR told the nation that the main obstacle to recovery from the depression was fear itself, the panic and despair that made most people afraid to spend money or hire people or start businesses. In 1941, just before the US became officially involved in the war against fascism, FDR gave a speech that listed Four Freedoms as the essence of a civilized world, ideals he believed that even the most isolationist, America First citizens would consider worth fighting for: Freedom of Speech and Religion and Freedom from Want and Fear.

The first two of the Four Freedoms were already embraced with pride by most Americans. Freedom from Want or destitution was less traditional, since Americans had always thought that poverty was a personal fault. The Depression taught a lot of Americans, at least temporarily, that it was irrational to blame the poor for poverty, that it could strike anyone, and that economic security might be a civil right.

Freedom from Fear, however was something new for Americans to embrace. In that speech, FDR seems to have been referring, primarily, to bringing an end to international military aggression, but he  also knew that the spread of fascism had brought with it the brute politics of exterminating hatred, a fanatical program to rid the world of all people who did not fit the fascist ideal of normal. He also knew well that, for people with disabilities, the first obstacle to living fully was fear in all its manifestations, one’s own fear of risk and the fear that other people felt toward people with disabilities.

For generations, families had often kept relatives with disabilities secret or at least out of sight, as a genealogical defect, a source of social stigma. People who did not have disabilities also expected to be spared the sight of those who did, and this irrational dread of seeing or being seen was among the most serious barriers to full participation of people with disabilities in their own communities.

I think it can be safely said that no one is more visible than a president of the United States. The privileged life that FDR had led gave him a powerful self-confidence, but even he went through a period of mourning for his old self when he first loss the use of his legs. 

Even though he refrained from drawing undue attention to his disability, most people, especially in Congress and the press, were well aware of FDR’s condition. Certainly, with such an example, it would be really difficult for polio survivors to see themselves as helpless. When Washington D.C. finally got around to creating an FDR memorial, disability rights advocates protested that none of the sculptures showed him in a wheel chair, which would help dispel the stigma of disability.

Sheila and Louis Patrick
I met and married Louis in 1968, a year of terrible shocks that included assassinations as well as escalation of both the war in Vietnam and the opposition to it. For us, though, it was a time of great exhilaration for the explosion of creativity around us and, more importantly, for the daring and righteousness of the modern Civil Rights movement, the people who risked their lives to overcome segregation and racism and those political leaders who worked with them to make the country more just and democratic, even in the face of fierce and often violent resistance to these changes.

Louis and I were very happy, playing and taking turns going to work and school. One evening Louis remarked that getting married had been very good for him, because it gave him his freedom. Nothing ever pleased me more than to hear that. When I was growing up, men often talked about marriage as a loss of freedom and spoke of their wives as “the old ball and chain” among other nasty expressions.

This got me to thinking about freedom, that it is more than just the absence of restraints, more than just being left alone. It also means feeling that you can take risks and explore life because you have an ally who will stand by you, someone who wants your life to be richer and not poorer, who believes as much as you do that barriers must be broken and that engagement in and enjoyment of the world is a sacred right.

Sometimes that ally can be another person, but sometimes it can be the government. The term Civil Rights in fact refers to rights that can only be enjoyed by those who live under an effective government that can secure, to use Thomas Jefferson’s phrase, those inalienable rights that may exist in theory but need a means of enforcement to exist in practice. 

FDR had understood that too. The jobs programs of the New Deal and the Social Security Act gave many Americans a degree of economic independence, even if they did not entirely cure the Depression. As one journalist put it, FDR may not have put us on our feet, but he kept us off our knees. Later politicians in the liberal tradition set by FDR enacted laws and created government agencies to expand and protect other Civil Rights, such as being recognized as a member of the public, with access to all amenities purported to be available to the public.

A series of Supreme Court decisions also expanded that tradition. People who preferred to continue excluding minorities and other groups they feared or disliked grumbled about “big government” and the loss of their privilege to discriminate, and sometimes the laws and agencies intended to enforce Civil Rights were and still are subverted by officials willing to accommodate those complaints. Even with laws and court decisions, we have learned, it is still necessary to have flesh and blood allies, living human beings determined to make and keep access to the full range of life a reality.
Michael Heinrich with a protest sign: Healthcare not wealthcare

Freedom from Fear Part 2

By Sheila Patrick
On October 1, 1985, a new opportunity presented itself to Louis. He had recently met Deborah Cunningham, a vibrant young woman who had also contracted polio as a child and also lived with disabilities more severe than those that Louis lived with, but who, like him, had boundless energy and appetite for life along with a rigorous sense of dignity. 

Louis Patrick with Deborah Cunningham

She and Louis, along with Fred Dinwiddie, Nigel Shapcott and Michael Heinrich, formed a corporation called Access All Areas to replace a structure under Easter Seals with one run by and for citizens with disabilities. It is now the Memphis Center for Independent Living, one of many CIL’s all over the country that fight for people who have for generations been treated as perpetual children, at best, and, at worst, as people too strange to be part of the community. 

At first the Center concentrated on physical barriers to mobility and participation in community life.  They organized projects to build ramps so that people who used wheelchairs could get out of the house and insisted that restaurants, retail shops, theaters and government buildings be fitted with ramps and make other accommodations. 

Being visible was as important as getting through the door to such public places. For example, like Louis and me, Deborah was a big movie fan. When she asked the proprietors of the Ridgeway Theater where the accessible seating was, they showed her to a booth at the very back of the theater that was walled off on three sides so that a person in a wheelchair could see the screen but other patrons could not see them. 

Her response was, “I don’t do closets.” She proceeded to roll down to a better spot and parked herself in the aisle to enjoy the movie.

Eventually the proprietors just removed end seats on a few well placed-rows, so that patrons like Deborah and Louis could be regular members of the audience. The issue of visibility as well as access came up again with restaurants that wanted to put ramps at a back entrance out of sight, until they were told that this was not acceptable. 

The passage of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act provided a resource to compel private businesses and local governments to make accommodations, although it was frequently necessary to bring lawsuits to force compliance with the law. This was a shock to me, because I thought when someone broke the law all you had to do was call the police!  

Louis Patrick

One of these lawsuits resulted in the 1999 Supreme Court Decision, Olmstead v L.C, which dealt with people who were eligible for Medicaid funds being unnecessarily relegated to nursing homes, creating a very profitable industry. The court said that the ADA required that citizens with disabilities have the option of receiving attendant services in “the most integrated setting,” and that steering people into nursing homes rather than allowing them to receive attendant care in their own homes was effectively segregation. 

Even the Supreme Court could not break this pattern, though, because states found loopholes to avoid compliance. Tennessee was one of those states for a long time. Because Colorado was not, the Center helped people who wanted to get out of nursing homes to move there, a project they called the Underground Railroad, an escape to freedom. Eventually the Center and other advocates persuaded Tennessee to change the policy. 

My husband and the Center worked with the city to improve public transportation, make sidewalks safer for wheelchair users and make the negotiation of public streets safer with better curb ramps. They also backed the adoption by the City Council of a Visitable Homes Ordinance to require that new homes built with public funds have at least one accessible entrance and doors wide enough to allow wheelchair users to enter the homes of friends and relatives as well as public buildings. They argued that the population of people with disabilities is the largest minority in the country, of which any one of us can become a member in the blink of an eye and most of us will join if we live long enough. 

A big part of the Center’s work involves educating the greater community about false assumptions and careless language about disability. Too many Americans accept the specious ideology that avoiding hurtful and dangerous language in reference to other people is a wimpy cop-out to what they call “political correctness,” as if being rude and abusive took courage. 

In addition, the Center acts as an advocate between a person and his or her employer, landlord or others when instances of discrimination arise. It also works to liberate people who are unaware of opportunities for education and employment that are available to them or who have internalized the prejudices of other people.  

Louis Patrick

The requirement that the staff and board of directors of the Center be made up predominantly of people with visible disabilities means that they can demonstrate by example how one can reclaim autonomy over one’s everyday life. The Center is also dedicated to the idea that any political decisions involving people with disabilities must include the input of those people. One of the fundamental maxims of the center is NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US. 

Although the Center receives some government funding, it must raise additional funds in order to continue to operate. There are a number of events throughout the year that raise money and also provide opportunities for celebration and socialization. One of those events is coming up very soon.

On Friday, August 3 from 6:00 to 9:00, the center is holding its fourth annual Deborah Cunningham Access Awards dinner in the East Atrium of the Crosstown Concourse. Its primary function is to recognize individuals who have provided leadership in advocacy, but it’s a party too, featuring entertainment by Hope Clayburn and Joyce Cobb. Tickets are $40 per person or $300 for a table of eight. 

It is a chance to learn more about what these advocates do and meet some of the leaders of the movement, as well as enjoy some good food and music.  The center is also still looking for sponsors for the event, in case any of you know of a business or organization that might like to be associated with the center and its philosophy.  

Louis Patrick

This year’s dinner is particularly a cause of celebration because it marks the twentieth anniversary of a successful pro se lawsuit brought by Deborah Cunningham against The Public Eye, a barbecue place in Overton Square that was willing to spend vastly greater funds in legal fees to avoid compliance with the ADA over a small step barrier at the entrance than it would have cost to comply. 

With the support of Attorney General Janet Reno, it became Deborah Cunningham and the United States v The Public Eye. Not only was the original step barrier replaced by a ramp, but other accommodations were required and the proprietors had to pay the government and the Center for their recalcitrance. It was a big victory over what initially seemed to be a small barrier, but each such victory helps to break down the walls that isolate and segregate members of the community from each other.

Louis Patrick
Louis Patrick
I began today with Afternoon on a Hill a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay.  I love this poem by because is describes the peaceful happiness of someone who feels at home in the world. That is what my husband wished for himself and everyone else, what I think he meant by freedom.

As John Kennedy said of the hope to end the cold war, the greatest obstacle to that end is the belief that it is impossible. It is not impossible. The conquest of fear can make it happen. The cause of independent living is not just for people with disabilities or who have friends or family members with disabilities.

Any of us can become a part of this very large minority at any time, but more importantly, all of us need to consider the dignity and happiness of any of us to be our business. This is our country and we are all involved in determining what kind of country we will be.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Help for Local Seniors to Continue to Live in Their Own Homes

Spread the word!

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis’
next Aging in Place program call-in application period
Thursday, July 12, 2018 starting at 9 a.m.

To apply, applicants must call 901-322-3500 starting at 9 a.m. on Thursday, July 12 and leave a message with their name, address and phone number to receive a call back. We will call applicants back to complete applications over the phone. At that time, applicants must have all documentation required to complete their application. Applicants will be accepted on a first-qualified, first-served basis.

So spread the word to your contacts in our community! The services provided through this program are in great need to help local seniors continue to live in their own homes safely and with the dignity and respect they deserve.

You can find more information about the program on our website, If you have any questions about the program, feel free to contact Shannon Morgan, Senior Program Manager, at 901-322-3510 or

Thank you for working with us and helping spread the word about this program!

P.S. Following the July 12 application date, we do not know when the next application period will be. We will update the Aging in Place hotline (901-322-3500), Habitat website ( and social media (Facebook and Twitter) once we determine the next application date.

** The funding for this project was provided through a grant awarded by the Davidson County Chancery Court, Part III from the SeniorTrust/ElderTrust settlement (Case No. 11-1548-III) and through a contract administered by the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability. The Aging in Place program receives additional financial support from a variety of sources, including The City of Memphis, Division of Housing and Community Development; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and The Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati.