Column Barriers? Let’s get behind Joe
Joe Luciano can be a pain in the butt — there ain’t no doubt about that.
Talk about a nuisance. My inbox is flooded with emails of Luciano’s not-so-gentle rants about the indignities he and other disabled people continue to endure, which prevents them from living full lives. Joe suffered a stroke and uses a wheelchair.
Over the last several years, he has raised Cain about his inability to get around Seymour — the place he calls home — and do the simple things others take for granted.
Whether it is non-compliance for snow removal or parking laws or lack of handicappedaccessible buildings, including his home, Luciano says because those laws are not enforced, he and other disabled — not the able-bodied — are paying the price.
Photos he sends me show him in his wheelchair impeded by mounds of unplowed snow on sidewalks in front of homes or businesses — or his attempts to visit the post office.
And frustrated, he is not letting local, state or U.S. officials forget it, bombarding them with letters and emails about the Americans with Disabilities Act and the lack of adherence to it even as the law celebrates its 27th year.
But so far, his efforts seemingly haven’t amounted to much, as follow-up emails from him address the lack of response.
But like a boxer who staggers out of his corner still throwing punches, Joe continues his barrage against public officials.
Currently, he has a complaint lodged against Seymour police alleging they joked and mocked him in a conversation he recorded.
So, Joe is serious about being taken seriously.
And I am with him all the way.
My only question is, why isn’t everyone over the age of 50 in this state not behind him, as well?
Bells have been pealing a warning over the last 10 years as funding and services for the disabled have taken hit after hit. How bad is it for them? Everything that affects their quality of life — from housing to medical care — is being cut, or cuts to these services are being proposed, leaving many of Connecticut’s vulnerable citizens facing bleak futures and tougher times.
People in wheelchairs recently stormed Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office at the state Capitol to call attention to the potential harm of more proposed cuts — and were arrested for their actions.
It’s an unsettling image of our more vulnerable citizens but it is one readers should let rest in their minds for a minute and imagine their desperation — and how powerless they must feel. For daring to fight for a better life, they received 20 hours of community service for civil disobedience.
And that brings me to the point of my column and why everyone over the age of 50 must get behind Joe and the disabled. The reason is simple: we are the next vulnerable group and will face the same or similar barriers.
Eight years from now, about 1.3 million people in Connecticut will be 55 and older. That will represent approximately 35 percent of the state’s population, according to the Connecticut Economic Resource Center. And those numbers will only climb as more and more baby boomers retire.
Broke and getting old — with the young fleeing for better opportunities — is not a good combination for a state that needs to turn itself around.
It’s no secret what it is going to take to bring Connecticut back to stability and prosperity: it’s got to get younger.
That means it must use its available resources to shore up “youth” and that doesn’t bode well for people over 50.
Connecticut will have to do a lot more than boast about its beautiful shorelines and state parks to attract youth and keep them here.
In all probability, it means making the state more affordable for young families with incentives such as affordable housing, child care and tax breaks.
And what does that take? Money — and there is not much of that.
I am a realist. I don’t see Connecticut spending massive amounts of money making the lives of senior citizens and the disabled better over the next 10 to 20 years when it has a huge problem with young, uneducated and unskilled workers who have taken up roots in the state.
So, we may not be in wheelchairs; but we, too, are in danger as we grew older.
Oh, I know, a lot of us are not thinking about those coming days right now.
Many of us have kicked oldage to Florida as we exercise, groove to the oldies and in general turn upside down what it is means to grow older.
Some of us are still moving like Jagger and others can still go down that soul train line.
And, yeah, it’s pretty cool to still have some fire in the furnace even as snow threatens the rooftop.
But growing older we are and, eventually, age will have its way. Muscles will weaken, bones will grow more brittle, steps will slow and voices will grow weaker.
And unlike in some other countries, here in the U.S., age and wisdom are not valued above youth and energy.
Connecticut hasn’t ignored the disabled or its seniors and has made many strides to improve their lives. But when the dollars are on the table and the pickings are slim, the vulnerable are the first to feel the cuts — and be ignored. Just ask Joe. He is trying to live his last years enjoying life — not fighting to enjoy it.
But he shouldn’t be a one-man army for barriers that affect so many and will undoubtedly affect many more in the years to come.
Sometimes, it takes the howl of the lone wolf to draw the pack and in this case, that howl is a call to arms to everyone over the age of 50 in Connecticut. We hesitate at our own peril. Let’s get behind Joe. James Walker is the Register’s senior editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-680-9389. Follow him on Twitter @thelieonroars.
A protest rally on the front steps of the Seymour United States Post Office to demonstrate the facility’s lack of handicapped accessibility. At far left is Irene Puccino of East Haven, president and board of directors member of the Center for Disability Rights in West Haven, and Joe Luciano of Seymour, third from left, who helped organize the event.