Like the first day at a new job, I am feeling a bit awkward at writing an article for this Audacity Magazine.
As you can imagine, I have thought of dozens of topics that I think are timely and many that are overlooked but I have been trying to gauge what would be a good first topic.
So, I’ve settled on reality and chose me. Not at all a really bad choice since none of you knows me or so you think.
My name is Rodney, though after years in police work in Ohio, people refer to me as Colonel R. E. Jackson.
Before 1990, I was actively training police officers in Sign Language. It became so popular that a group was formed calling themselves: The Police Interpreters Association.
A group that would earn its title as they began to respond to national disasters in the early 1990’s just to assist the deaf and hearing impaired disaster victims.
It wouldn’t be until the mid 1990’s that I accepted the reality of my own disability which resulted when I suffered a heart attack in my police cruiser. Interestingly and sadly, strokes were to follow.
It was an interesting ordeal to watch because I went from having medical emergencies to having to depend on specialized medical equipment.
It started with a service dog named Lieutenant. I didn’t even know what a service dog was. I was then prescribed an electric wheel chair, then a hospital bed and oxygen.
You would have thought that was enough but then came
the visiting nurse and a daily home health aide. Ok, some guys would jump at the chance to be bathed by a woman but it was just a little too much for me, even though it sounds kind of tidy it wasn’t.
I didn’t know what to do with the service dog because I didn’t like dogs. As for the wheel chair, after driving fire equipment and police cruisers, I definitely couldn’t see myself in a motorized wheel chair that went about three miles per hour.
Since I considered myself a relatively young man, I just couldn’t see the reality of a love life in a hospital bed.
But those were the minor problems, believe it or not.
The bigger ones were trying to take a service dog into a place of business and being shoved, pushed, curse out, threatened to be shot with a shot gun, or the final insult to a veteran police officer, having the police called so they could have me physically removed.
So, while I’m trying to adjust to the reality of my new physical limitations, my new medical equipment, I am being literally torn apart by local businesses because of a silly dog that resembles Old Yeller from the Disney Classic.
Sadly but with a belief in the “System”, I began filing complaints and charges and even had a few persons arrested. For those of you who didn’t know, in many of the fifty states of America, to deny a person with a service animal from entering a place of public business is a criminal violation.
But calling for help and filing charges got me absolutely nowhere. So, remembering my police academy training: When you know you are going to loose, you fight and you don’t stop.
Well, that was in the late 1990’s and I’m still fighting. Interestingly, while I have been fighting, I have been learning about my rights as a person with a disability.
Wow! You would be amazed at all of the laws, codes, presidential executive orders, statutes, benefits, resources, and more that are in place to protect us. Unfortunately, but it seems that the people that seem to have that responsibility to administer such don’t seem too eager to assist us.
Could it be because they aren’t the ones being pushed around just because of medical issues of which they have no control?
So, I’ve become my own best civil rights and disability advocate. I’ve flexed my muscle, fighting over two hundred corporations and it’s been noticed.
I now sit on several Boards and Committees in an attempt to take the fight where it belongs.