Gary Karp's Good Reading. Disability Awareness Information... and More.
December 2008
In This Issue
ADA Amendments Act
Get Ready for Them
Latest Speaking Rave
Home from Costa Rica
Tribute: Richard Knight
Study Hall
Surveys on
Work & Disability

From the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation:

"A national survey of consumer attitudestowards companies that hire people withdisabilities"

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Another year, another newsletter.

I've added a new feature with this issue. On the side you'll see "Study Hall" where I'll point you to a recent survey having to do with work and disability.

Hope you find it adds to the Good Reading experience.

This one's a little longer than usual, with a promised report on our Costa Rica vacation, and a loving tribute.

All my best for the holidays.

The ADA Amendments Act

Updated Law Goes into Effect 1.1.09

The Supreme Court's decisions on the Americans with Disabilities Act have been widely believed to have diluted its original intent.

The biggest impact: a drastic narrowing of who falls under the definition of disability. If you're missing a limb or paralyzed or blind or deaf, no question. If your impairments can be mitigated in some way, then too bad.

In other words, someone who falls outside of the definition who believes they were discriminated against based on the presence of their disability, lost protection under the ADA.

The original framers of the law, Democrats and Republicans alike, were upset that the spirit of their intent had been violated. In partnership with the disability advocacy community, The ADA Restoration Act of 2008 was introduced in Congress.

The business community was concerned that changes to the ADA would limit their options, involve more administration, and add to their costs.

So here's the wonderfully good news.

The disability and business communities worked together on what became the renamed "ADA Amendments Act." Thanks to this successful collaboration*, the act passed.

George H.W. Bush signing the original ADA. Evan Kemp on the left,
Justin Dart on the right.

On September 25, 2008, George W. Bush signed into law this amendment to the law originally signed by his father, George H.W. Bush, in 1990.

Two key examples from the ADA Amendments Act:

  Mitigating measures other than "ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses" shall not be considered in assessing whether an individual has a disability (for the disability community)

  Provides that individuals covered only under the "regarded as" prong are not entitled to reasonable accommodation (for the business community)

Read "The ADA Amendments Act of 2008, S.3406".

* This collaboration, I believe, is evidence of two key facts: the business community is recognizing the emerging value of people with disabilities as employees and consumers; disability advocates have achieved a level of political and negotiating sophistication that is producing more win-wins like this one.
Now As Much As Ever

Workers with Disabilities and the Economic Downturn

Ohmigosh, what a mess. We're all, to put it ridiculously mildly, concerned.

But it will turn around. It always does.

Workers with disabilities will be very important to the revived economy. Here's why.

Some people who are being laid off who can swing it will decide to retire. Or start a business. They won't be in the labor pool when it's time to start hiring again.

The employees still on hand need to stay on the job, or return efficiently if they acquire an impairment (one which can be reasonably accommodated, that is). Now more than ever, organizations can't afford to waste dollars on disability management for people who don't need-or want-to be on disability.

Households who lose some income will need family members with disabilities to pitch in. The more they take their rightful and proper place in the economy, the better it is for everyone. Not to mention the income they'll spend into the economy instead of collecting benefits.

And it's a clear fact that millions of baby boomers are about to leave the workforce. We're facing a looming and dramatic shortage of qualified workers.

Organizations need to prepare. Now.

Let me help you be ready to embrace workers with disabilities. Let's work together to bring your workplace culture up to speed. Don't allow the already immensely-wasted human resource of qualified and able workers with disabilities to be passed by when you will need them most.

My services:

  Keynote or Lunch 'n' Learn Talks
  General Disability Awareness Training
  Disability Etiquette Training
  An ADA Primer
  Consulting with Disability Resource Groups
  Consulting with Diversity Professionals
  Editing Disability-related Documents and Web Pages
  In-Person or Webinar Services Programs

Call me at 415.491.4280, or email
Latest Rave

John Kemp, Executive Director of the
U.S. Business Leadership Network

John Kemp

On October 7, 2008 I gave the luncheon keynote at the annual USBLN conference in Portland, OR. The esteemed and very cool John Kemp honored me with these comments:

"Your skillful blending of the social, historical, political, ethical, and business pieces of the "modern disability" story was simply brilliant. As I sat and listened to your passionate delivery of this message, I recognized the special role you play as a key spokesman for the emergent value of workers and consumers with disabilities. You educated our audience of business influencers most effectively on the extremely important concepts of disability culture co-existing within the larger, majority culture."

Thanks, John!!

Read the full testimonial letter.
Home from Costa Rica

A Mixed Experience

Paula and I spent six nights in Costa Rica in November, a trip we looked forward to for months. The trip that helped us survive all of my coming and going from August through October.

Costa Rica Plane BoardingGetting off the plane was a thrilling start. There are no skywalks at Liberia airport, so they literally lifted me off the plane in the aisle chair (via the catering truck) while Paula was rushed off to customs with my wheelchair cushion!

We did our best in advance to research access, and I assumed that there would be some improvising in this developing country. Part of the deal, part of the adventure.

The weather was perfect. Our driver was gracious and helpful-though we imagine he made a pretty good cut of the $100 apiece we paid for the river boat ride where we spotted birds and iguana and crocodiles and fed the white-faced monkeys bananas by hand. The dirt road ride there was bone-jarring. The native lunch we stopped for on the way home was utterly delicious. Rice and beans and chicken has never tasted this good.

We stayed at the Villa Alegre B&B, graciously hosted by Barry and Suzye Lawson. Wonderful breakfasts, great restaurant referrals, and an intimate look into the expat life in Tamarindo, Guanacante. Hmmm. Maybe we can open up an accessible B&B and live in paradise, too?

If you're considering Costa Rica, you could not be more graciously hosted at a more lovely place than Villa Allegre.

We learned that what "accessible" means in our mind is not the same as what others think it means. For us, accessibility means indepndence. We were assured that the beach was accessible from our villa. This was one reason we chose the place, aside from the general access of the villa and pool.

"Accessible" turned out to mean "with four strong people carrying you down a rickety path and through some soft sand." So I sat up on top while Paula strolled along the surf:

Cosa Rica Beach

Not to exaggerate, we later found a spot where we could get on the beach in town, and the sand was firm enough for me to wheel. We spent the day reading on beach chairs under an umbrella, saying "No, Gracias" to all the trinket hawkers that kept walking by.

And we chose the perfect time, just before Thanksgiving. Great weather and no crowds. In fact, we pretty much had Villa Allegre to ourselves. Accessibility quirks aside, we wish we'd spent another week.

Back to work!
Loving Memory
My Dear Friend Richard Knight
Richard Knight Backlit
Tuesday evening, December 16, 2008, my very dear friend and mentor, Richard Knight, passed away of prostate cancer.

Richard was my professor in architectural design at Lawrence Tech in Southfield, Michigan in 1974. In 1985, not long after I had moved to Northern California, Richard walks up to me in the lobby of Moscone Center in San Francisco saying, "I think I know you."

Thus began one of the most precious friendships of my life.

Richard was an architect, artist, and sculptor. His demeanor was always sweet, sincere, intelligent, questioning, witty, and creatively twisted in a way that made him so uniquely Richard in an entirely endearing way. In the way that any true artist shows you the beauty of the world through another lens.

He and his wife Judith Lynch have been the kind of people who bring people together. So many meals and gatherings and celebrations with so many incredible people of like mind to explore the world and its beauty and insanity. I have Richard and Judith to thank for so much, not the least some other dear friends I've found through them.

In the 60s, father of three, Richard worked in the office of Eero Saarinen during one of the most exciting eras in modern architectural history. The Saarinen office was responsible for a number of notable modern buildings, not the least the TWA terminal at JFK airport in New York and the St. Louis Arch.

Richard Knight at a San Francisco book appearance.

Richard's role there included being the house photographer. From his incredible trove of images, he recently published "Saarinen's Quest," a photo study of their office and its practice. They made drawings and built models. No computers. Architecture doesn't happen like that any more. Richard has offered us a treasured look into a remarkable time in design.

I am reminded of Richard every day, thanks to Green Piece, his sculpture that he so gracefully designed, fabricated, and installed in the front yard of my house.

Richard and Gary with Green Piece
An incredibly special man. A very treasured life. Richard, I'll miss you so much. And you'll always be with me.
 Studio photos copyright,