The contents of this column reflect the letters we had received by the time we went to press, January 14, 2005. Letters are limited to 300 words or less. All submissions must include the author's name and location. Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

Regarding Elections

A curious thing happened to me on the way to the polls this past Election Day. The lady who assisted me this time told me about a conversation she had with an acquaintance. Person B asked Person A what one assisting a disabled person in voting should do if the disabled person requests that their ballot be marked in a manner conflicting with the assistant's views and choices. My assistant immediately told Person B that the purpose of being anyone's assistant is to enable the person being helped to achieve the goal of their choice. Those assisting should not make decisions for the one being assisted. It is the disabled person's vote after all. I do agree with those who urge that a system be provided in which we can all vote privately. It may not be practical to do so in all situations. Sometimes we do have to sacrifice some independence to be able to participate in the process. I understand the concerns, but compromise is sometimes required.

I was amused by Jake Joehl's anecdote about the question of disabled people voting Republican (or any party affiliation, for that matter). The liberal mind-set assumes that government programs and mandates address and solve all problems. It isn't surprising that most disabled people tend to vote Democrat. A few of us, though, would prefer government to get out of the way and let free enterprise and private endeavors take over. Ronald Reagan said it best: "Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem." I couldn't agree more. Even our current president observed that government should help people enhance their lives, but not control their lives. I agree there, too.

Happy 2005. Keep on keeping on.

Phyllis Lackershire, Richland Center, Wis.

Pedestrian Safety

Dear Editor,

I would like to call the attention of your readers to a current pedestrian safety issue.

Like most states, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has developed a manual for potential drivers and for those required to re-take the test in order to update their drivers' licenses. The manual contains information about guaranteed pedestrian right of way for blind and visually impaired pedestrians partnered with guide dogs or using a white cane. However, material from the manual related to this issue rarely appears on written examinations. In California, only one out of 400 questions deals with blind pedestrian safety. Since 20 questions are randomly selected from the pool of more than 400 available, the question only appears on one out of 20 tests.

Backed by the mayor and Fresno City Council, we approached the DMV with a request that more pedestrian safety questions be added to the pool from which the written test was derived. Recognizing the validity of the request, the DMV has committed to writing more questions on pedestrian safety, and also guaranteed that one question on blind and visually impaired pedestrian right of way in crosswalks will be included in every future written test.

I recommend that a similar effort be undertaken in every state to raise awareness of pedestrian safety concerns. As right on red, left turn lanes, shortened pedestrian walk time at major intersections and traffic ambient timed signals have been incorporated into traffic engineering patterns throughout the United States, crossing streets has become a more and more dangerous endeavor!

Ed Eames, Ph.D., Chair,
Fresno Americans with Disabilities Act Advisory Council,
Fresno, Calif.

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