Thursday, September 24, 2020

Advocate's Voice For The Disabled Falls Silent


Advocate For The Disabled Debra Buell shows a keyboard after an inexpensive fix that makes it more usable for someone with vision limitations.

© 2020 Luke T. Bush


The news arrived late to me. Debra Buell, a dedicated advocate for the disabled, passed away on August 26th.

I first met Debra at the Plattsburgh Public Library in October 2012 when she gave a presentation about making the building more accessible to the disabled. She was concerned that the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) passed in 1990 was being ignored in some areas.

She delved into research, finding what had been written as law were empty words, no enforcement. When in contact with a governmental agency or community service group she backed her arguments up with facts that couldn't be ignored.

Debra suffered from a number of illnesses but she dealt with them. She was losing her vision and had to push to get the special optics she needed to keep doing her advocacy.

Some officials hated her. She was bringing up matters they wanted left in dark silence. If they followed the law and regulations it might disturb their untroubled perfunctory positions.

One setback was when an individual infected her computer with malware, her research avenue, hoping that she would give up. But she kept on.

There was an incident with a local restaurant owner whose sidewalk seating area blocked the way for her and other people with wheelchairs. In her video the owner acted rude, didn't care if people with disabilities had to use the street.

She also advocated for Plattsburgh City to clean its own sidewalks from snow instead of forcing property owners to take the responsibility. This issue was more than dealing with an inconvenience, it was a matter of safety. One winter a college student was forced to walk in the street due to a snow-blocked sidewalk. A car struck her, killing her.

Debra was a valuable voice in the community. Her voice is still needed.

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