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11 June 2006

Disabled resident: Disability is my problem, not city's

BEACH ACCESSIBILITY

Disabled resident: Disability is my problem, not city's

By Carole-Anne Hallyburton

Re "City upgrades beach access for wheelchairs," May 20.

I am a 36-year-old adult with cerebral palsy, and I'm the first to admit that even with my UNC Chapel Hill degree I can't navigate a port-a-john. Period. It doesn't matter how many handrails the city installs, my using a port-a-john ain't gonna happen.

The lawsuit [discussed in the May 20 article] leaves a mark on the reputation of disabled individuals that's tackier than a port-a-john at a wine tasting.

Frankly, I'm embarrassed by the plaintiff's allegations.

The Grand Strand has been a part of my summers for 35 years. Like the plaintiffs, I spent a lot of vacations unable to physically go out onto the beach. Unlike the plaintiffs, it never caused me to throw a temper tantrum, call it a lawsuit and try to give the Strand a negative spin in the process.

My family and I opted for more common-sense remedies, like accommodations with breathtaking views of the shore. Examples like this largely compensated for my problem. And that's what my disability is: my problem. It's neither the city's, nor the county's, not even the Advocates for Disabled Americans' problem. And it's certainly not the taxpayers' problem.

These days, I like to perch on the access area in North Myrtle Beach and reflect on how good it feels to be back in Horry County. Like many, I am eternally thankful to both Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach for the ramps built over the past two years. They were wonderful surprises, but not something I felt either city owed me.

Since early childhood, I've seen repeatedly how a "please," a "thank you" and a smile earn myself and my disability 10 times more respect than a threat, a tantrum or a sour expression ever would.

I've also observed that able-bodied individuals are generally happy to accommodate any special needs that arise with me. Normally, they see those needs before I do.

I've eaten in restaurants here of many genres, from the hometown atmosphere of Hoskins to the tropical anonymity of Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville to the Italian flavor of Carrabba's Grill, which incidentally was targeted by the plaintiffs. Not once have I been unable to wheel inside an establishment, get a comfortable table and enjoy a meal (straw and extra napkins included without my asking).

Other customers at their own will have moved their chairs and even their tables to allow me extra space to pass by.

Restaurants, cinemas, stores and attractions aren't the only locations along the Strand to offer courtesies to disabled individuals. Just the other day a city employee emerged from his manhole to stop traffic on a four-lane street in order to let me cross.

As I watched the sun rise over the ocean on Easter morning this year, I whispered a thank-you for the compassion of the city. It loaned the church a beach wheelchair in order for me to attend the service.

With all the positives I've experienced as a disabled person in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, I truly would have to be bored to death and fishing for trouble if I used my energy to engineer a scheme like the present lawsuit. I sincerely hope the judge has the good sense to throw the whole ordeal out of court.


The writer lives in North Myrtle Beach.
Originally published: Myrtle Beach Sun News

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