Dear Readers,

Congressman Mike Thompson, who represents Healdsburg, sent a letter to me the day before yesterday.  He has personally talked "at length" with the City Manager.  The result is that inspectors have visited the Dry Creek Inn and brought several accessibility issues to the City's attention.  The City takes these issues "seriously" and hopes to resove them soon.   Democracy works!

Mike Thompson  serves on  the Congressional Committee on Ways and Means' Subcommittee on Health and the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures.  He is on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; Chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Human Intelligence, Analysis and Counterintelligence.  He serves on the Subcommittee on Intelligence Community Management.

His able staffer Cheryl Diehm in Napa brought this to his attention for me.

Things are moving in the right direction.     When I learn about a plan to restructure the few rooms that need adjustments, so people with disabilities can use them, I'll let you know.

Maybe this pawn has a chance to Queen!




Dear Readers,

Personal power is not always visible, but you can be sure that all the so-called "Nobodies" of this world have it.

It was a sudden storm, dark and mean.  Dawn at the San Francisco airport and I have no umbrella, so I yank up my collar, waiting for the large, obviously wealthy man in front of me to stop yelling at the skycap.

"Old man, the reason you're still lugging bags is because you're slow, stupid, and you don't listen.  This is going with me onto the plane!"

"Sir, that bag can't be carried on.  It won't fit under the seat or in the bulkhead.  Airline regulations say I've got to tag it."

Mr. Big and Wealthy threw his shoulders back.

"I'll tell you again ..."  And so he did.  Louder.  Slower.  With venom in his voice.

"Sorry, Sir, but I could lose my job ..."

"You sure as hell will lose your job if I miss my flight!  Do you know who I am?"

Though I couldn't hear who the passenger was the skycap seemed impressed and off he went, cashmere coat tails flying, Italian black leather shoes racing, elegant brief case clutched in one hand, the much disputed suitcase in his other.  His body roaring both fury and triumph.

As I stepp up to check in I compliment the skycap on keeping his temper.  He's an old man and it was embarrassing to witness the browbeating he took.

"Oh, it's nothing'.  Nothin' at all.  He's a really important man, full of worries and short on time.  Ummmmmm, yas.  A powerful man."

The skycap bends over, tagging my bags as he speaks.  Then he pauses, raises his body slowly, with dignity, until he looks me full in the face.  His smile lights up the sky.  His eyelids blink a few times, relishing his vision.

"Ummmmmm, yas.  A powerful man, goin' to London.   Then, he winks at me. "His bags?  They're goin' to Argentina."

"You didn't!"

"Yup!  I did.  I sure did.   Won't he be surprised."

 (This is just a reminder from a little old lady who wants the Best Western/Dry Creek Inn in Healdsburg, California to have compassion for people with disabilities.  It's a Human Rights issue.  They, and the city that gives them a permit to rent rooms, have got to provide a few rooms that comply with Federal law.)

A Little Old Lady in California



Dear Readers,

I have pressed the pause button.   The City of Healdsburg in California's wine country has until December 15th to let me know that they have worked out a plan with the Best Western/Dry Creek Inn so that hotel rooms for people with disabilities will be suitable.  I suggested that the changes take place within a year.

You will be the first to know.  If I hear nothing then I will make the reasonable assumption that their behavior (which is the strongest indicator of what people want) means that they want me to publish widely the letter that I wrote to them, asking them to be compassionate.  And their refusal to be so.

Until then, I am posting a true story that shows how powerful a seemingly insignificant human being can be.

See the next post.



SHOULD I TAKE THIS RISK? Healdsburg Breaks Federal Law.

I received a caution from one of my best friends who has stood by me for fifty years or more.  It came the other day.  She must feel deeply because she has never used this tone with me, even though my life is a long story of getting in and out of trouble, but mostly always in.

After giving it a lot of thought I wrote a loving reply. An apologia.   She is a highly successful, much respected professional, wife, mother, grand mother, friend.  The honors that she has received would take a long time to recount.  She is a superb member of her community, her professional organizations.  She has a generous heart.

She may not agree with me but I think it is important for me to share my reply to her with you because if she does not understand then there may be others who do not understand why I take this risk, why I am "playing with fire".  I will not quote exactly what I wrote but it is almost word for word, leaving out passages that may identify her.

Dear Friend,

Every professional woman in the United States is standing on the shoulders of women from an earlier time who risked their lives, their reputations, their friendships and families so that women could be educated, work, vote, and receive some semblance of equal pay ... Because those women of not-so-long-ago were willing to sacrifice themselves you and I have had privileges that did not exist for them.  They marched, wrote, speechified, were beaten, abused, went to jail, were shunned, burned at the stake and humiliated.  But they were strong.  They were willing to "play with fire" so that you could do a post doc at a famous university, I could become a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, so that you could ... work your way to an eminent position in a huge country and receive the same rank and pay as men.

I am proud of what I'm doing.  If anyone loses their job or if an institution or business collapses under my campaign for human rights for people with disabilities it is not because I made it happen.  Job loss and institutional collapse will come (to the Best Western/Dry Creek Inn in Healdsburg California and to the City's employees who issued permits for hotel rooms that are not up to U.S. code for people with disabilities) because the people doing the jobs and the institutions that collapse were violating Federal laws that protect people with disabilities.

That's how the Americans with Disabilities Act came into being.  Cripples like myself petitioned the government for help.  They didn't get it and so they engaged in "street politics," calling upon the vast powers of the media to shine a light on injustice.  The press covered the indignities they suffered and then pressure was put on governmental representatives to make laws to protect women.

Let's keep in mind that there are 50 million people with disabilities in America.  That's 20 million more than the entire population of Canada.  It is the combined population of Florida and California.  ...

The ethical issues you brought up are as old as time.  But if I don't do this job of advocating for people with disabilities then will you do it?  If not, to whom may I delegate it?

Three or four times in the last twelve months I have been in situations where elevator doors closed on my wheel chair, there was no chair to sit on at Stanford's Cantor Center for the Arts for a 92 year old woman who was tired;  walkers and wheelchairs could not get through San Francisco's new DeYoung Museum's cafe, or the cafe at Stanford's museum, because there are too many tables.   Stanford's ramp for cripples is too far from the parking lot, a real hike, and their elevator for people with disabilities is a broom closet in size, and a shake, rattle and roll experience up to the first floor.   Scary for some people.

I wrote to the president of Stanford ... I suggested that a year be used to make some changes that would be helpful for people with special needs.  They agreed to some of the changes.  It wasn't everything but it was progress.  (It was because a "little old lady" took a stand and threatened to go to where the real power is in America, to the media.)

My suggestion to Healdsburg is to withhold a permit for occupancy until the Dry Creek Inn shapes up the few rooms that are set aside for people with disabilities (it's just a handful of rooms) but to allow them a year to get it done.  At the very least provide a bed that can be sat upon and slept in.  But the victorian style beds, so fashionable in California's wine country, are as high as your dining room table.  I could not get into them.  There were no stools, which in any case are dangerous.  There were no risers to put on the toilet bowls.  There were no rollaway beds.

But, there was lots of arrogance.  The woman at the front desk was cold, condescending, supercilious.

Already, Dry Creek and the City of Healdsburg have responded to this "little old lady" with a  sensible solution for the first room which was reserved for me:  It was taken off the list of accessible rooms (suitable for people with special needs).  In that room the toilet was too low, the sink was too high for someone in a walker/wheelchair, the shower was in the tub (not accessible), and the I could not get into the bed which was too high because it was Victorian style, about the height of your kitchen table.  So, the owner of the hotel, and the City of Healdsburg, used some common sense, which cost nothing.  The other room, to which I was sent after complaining,  has a great shower and toilet.  The bed, however, is still too high to be used by a person with my disabilities. Why not use common sense again:   Cut down the beds to a useable height, or supply ordinary beds that a cripple can get into.

Nobody is picking on Healdsburg.  Federal law surpasses state law.  Every city in the country has to inspect hotels and award permits of occupancy only if the few accessible rooms are up to the U.S. Department of Justice's code.  As soon as I get some reasonable accommodations for a few rooms at the Best Western/Dry Creek Inn I will go back to doing the other things that make up my life.

I appreciate your note, so full of concern for me and the well being of others, but this is the American Way.  Early Americans fought against England for independence because it was unfair to have taxation without representation.  People of color fought to get out of slavery, to have the same rights as white people: Though progress has been slow and sometimes horrifying things are a lot better than they were.

When the hummingbird was cautioned that she was "playing with fire," she said:  I must do my bit, small though it is.  This she said while flitting back and forth from the river to the raging forest fire, filling her tiny beak with water and dumping it onto the inferno.  Then back to the river for another run.

I am doing what I can, my imperfect best.

This is written with love, with respect, and with the hope that you will wake up every day thanking your courageous women predecessors who were willing to "play with fire" in order to  made your life possible.



Progress is being made. Accessibility in Healdsburg, CA.

Progress has been made with regard to accessibility for travelers when they reserve a room at the Best Western/Dry Creek Inn in Healdsburg, in the heart of California's beautiful wine country.

The President and General Manager of the Dry Creek Inn has declared Room 111 as a non-accessible room.  Translation:  If you go there, and have disability problems, that room will no longer be offered as "accessible," suitable for people with disabilities.  In September, this same room was rented for me.  I complained because I could not use the toilet, shower, sink and high Victorian-style bed, given my multiple mobility problems.

What a brilliant and no-cost solution:  Just declare Room 111 a regular room, not one for you if you are not able-bodied.  This I will file under Progress.  It is the result of my complaints, followed by a meeting between the President/General Manager of the Dry Creek Inn and Healdsburg's official who issues hotel permits for occupancy, with the Director of Building and Planning for the City of Healdsburg making the observation that a simple solution is to take Room 111 off the "accessible" list.

The next room, to which I was sent in September, had an accessible toilet and shower, though the sink was too high.  The critical issue here is that I could not use the bed at all, to sit on or get into, so that room (#423) is definitely not in accord with Federal law (the ADA--Americans with Disability Act).

Basically, this is a human rights issue:  Healdsburg must require Dry Creek to follow Federal Law, just like all the other hotels in the United States.  If not, then it should not get a permit to rent rooms.  That's how the ADA came into being.  People with disabilities argued that their human rights were violated when hotels did not offer accommodations and services that would allow them to use a hotel.

Part II of my challenge to Healdsburg is to lower the beds for rooms that are rented as "accessible".  If the shower, sink, toilet are accessible but a traveler can't sit on or get into the bed, because it is the height of your desk, then a simple solution would be to get out a saw and cut the bed down to a useable size.  This sensible idea comes from the Director of Building and Planning for Healdsburg.  Or, just replace those Victorian-style beds, in the handful of accessible rooms that a hotel is required to have, with beds that can be used by travelers with mobility problems.

Meanwhile,  I am grateful for this bit of progress.  It's a sign for Hope and a lesson for all of us:  Take a stand!  It's just like chess:  Go ahead and check the King.  You never know, it might be Mate.  



Heartless in Healdsburg

Question: In any given situation, when we are really upset about something how do we make change?

Answer: (1) Go to the Top of the organization. (2) Simultaneously, go to the source of real power. In the United States that is the media. I have no intention of litigating, which could go on for Dickensonian decades.

Part I of this answer was given to me by the president of RCA when, barely twenty years old, I worked as his assistant secretary. "If you have a problem," he said, "go straight to the top and don't mess with Mr. In Between."

This struck home with me because that's how it worked in our office, on the 53rd floor of the RCA Building, overlooking the skating rink at Rockefeller Center. It was a firm policy to deliver unopened any letter marked "Personal" and addressed to Mr. Frank M. Folsom, President, Radio Corporation of America.

He always read those letters, no matter how obscure the writer. True, they were then turned over to his executive secretary, who decided which vice president should handle the matter. She then gave the letter to me so that I could enter it into a log with a follow-up date by which time the selected VP should have resolved the issue.

The point is: I might end up dealing with someone other than the president of the Dry Creek Inn but it would be the Right Someone, instead of going through Customer Services where my complaint would be one of many.

So, I wrote a provocative letter to the president and general manager of the Dry Creek Inn, in which I threw down the gauntlet with "You bring shame to Healdsburg." I did not want to dance a stately minuet. I wanted to get to the solution, fast.

Deliberately, I chose U.S. mail and marked my letter "Personal" because a real letter is a bit unusual in these days of tweets and email and it might get more immediate attention. Sure enough, I get a real letter back from the president in which he says, effectively, that all this is in my mind, thereby adding the proverbial insult to injury. He says his hotel is up to code for the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). If it were not then he would never have received a permit for occupancy from the City of Healdsburg. In sum: I'm a little old lady verging on senility and I imagined all this stuff.

I replied with another "Personal" letter, correcting him with some rather strong but not vulgar language. For instance, I wrote: "You are dishonest. My son tells me he did not apologize for my anger at" the woman at the front desk whom I call Barbie Doll. Telling someone explicitly that they are dishonest means that you want to engage them in a serious combat. As is said in chess when my Bishop directly attacks your Queen: That's "putting the question". Will you counterattack? Retreat? Capture my Bishop? Resign? You've got to do something. In the case of Dry Creek, I have nothing to lose. My body is bent and broken but my mind is sharp and I have a witness who saw the rooms that were so blatently unsuitable for people with disabilities. In addition, my integrity is well known. Lying is so self-defeating.

While that letter was melting a few mail boxes enroute to the Dry Creek Inn's president, I simultaneously inquired of the City of Healdsburg: How did the Dry Creek Inn get a permit to rent rooms for people with disabilities when the shower is too low, the bed is not accessible because it's too high, the shower is not accessible, etc. What is going on here?

Well, what is going on is that the man who gave the "permit for occupancy" to the Best Western/Dry Creek Inn in Healdsburg, CA understands "federal supremacy," as he so eloquently put it but "I do not completely apply the ADA in Healdsburg," a charming tourist city in the heart of California's wine country. When I asked, with immense surprise, whether that was the right approach in a situation where I could not sit on or even get into the bed I was blown off with this bit of arrogant wit: "I do not do beds. They are beyond my ken."

"Oh," said I, "what a wonderful quote. I will just put that into the OpEd piece that I am sending to the New York Times, the Sacramento Bee and your own Healdsburg Tribune."

The Permit Man did have a meeting last week with the President of the Best Western/Dry Creek Inn but I don't know the outcome. However, if I want results then I can't let grass grow under my feet. So, I have played phone tag with the City Manager, had a pleasant phone conversation with the Permit Man's Boss who is going to explore the issue and seek a resolution. Intelligent guy, this Boss. He asked what I wanted. I told him I just want other people with disabilities to not be defrauded by paying for services that don't exist, and I want the Dry Creek Inn and the City of Healdsburg to stop breaking Federal Law. I said changes could be made in a timely way, say a year. I know that one doesn't wave a magic wand to have everything done by tomorrow. And now the whole issue of permits may raise a scandal so, possibly, there is an incentive to resolve this in favor of people with disabilities? The trick is to let the media use its awesome power.

Meanwhile, (you remember I made a commitment to do some one thing every day) I got in touch with the Congressional representative's office for the City of Healdsburg and a sympathetic staffer is now looking into this, from the perspective of government. It's a dispute between a citizen and a business firm so she will not be contacting the Inn. But there is hanging, like an unguarded Queen, the whole matter of why the government of Healdsburg issues permits when they should not.

Being a former secretary I know how easy it is to copy in others, so my letters also went to the Mayor, the City Council, the Visitors Bureau (all of whom have kept a thundering silence), the Better Business Bureau, the U.S. Justice Department's Department for Accessibility, and I put a note on Trip Advisor so the worldwide web will not feel neglected. The OpEd pieces have been mailed and I have a long list of other organization to get in touch with, such as the AARP, the accreditation agencies for hotels, etc. various radio and tv stations that have consumer type programs. Enough work to keep me going.

When I have some news I'll get back to this.

The Stanford University's museum story is somewhat amusing. That might be a good next post.



Why Start a Blog? Why Now?

This question has been asked by several people. By me, as well.

So, here's the back story.

For years people have suggested that I write but I resisted because I have nothing to say to posterity. Nothing that hasn't been said before, and well. Then, along came Destiny. In a span of twelve months I have experienced things, as a person with severe mobility problems, that shouldn't happen in our enlightened society, especially not in wealthy cities, in newly built palaces of fine art and luxury living.