Grasshopper Soup: Disabled support for Donner Lake Kitchen | SierraSun.com
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Grasshopper Soup: Disabled support for Donner Lake Kitchen

Bob Sweigert
Special to the Sun

TRUCKEE/TAHOE, Calif. and#8212; Speaking from experience I can say that being disabled is extremely challenging. No matter who you are, no matter how severe or minor your disability is, you are going to be inclined to wallow in self pity and cry, and#8220;Why me?and#8221;

My 22-year-old niece was born with Down syndrome. She bears her burden with more grace than most, including me. She wouldnand#8217;t think of making able-bodied people suffer personal hardship or loss, or take on an undue burden, just to accommodate her.

I did not apply, though I could, for handicap parking access because I donand#8217;t require a wheelchair. I donand#8217;t want to take advantage of my disability or to take up space for the more severely disabled. And I donand#8217;t want to be treated differently. I do not expect people to go out of their way to make concessions for me. And I donand#8217;t want to stop able-bodied people from doing things just because I canand#8217;t do everything they can do.

We disabled people must learn to live with our limitations. Blaming God, or making others pay for our misfortune means we have a long, long way to go in dealing with our disability. Able bodied people face limitations too. Nobody ever said life was fair.

The closing of Donner Lake Kitchen could have been avoided. They have one of the best breakfasts in the entire Tahoe area. Now I, a disabled person, canand#8217;t eat there. There is nothing fair, or right, or just about the closing of that fine restaurant. Why should everyone suffer because the Donner Kitchen is not wheelchair accessible?

Statistics indicate that less than 5 percent of all disabled people nationwide are confined to wheelchairs, and most of those 5 percent are in nursing homes or other care facilities with full amenities, including transportation. To close Donner Lake Kitchen for that small segment of the national population of disabled people is insane.

Lawyer Scott Johnson suffered a terrible injury. Confined to a wheelchair, he is unable to access Donner Lake Kitchen. In his fight against discrimination, he discriminated against the owners, employees and patrons of the restaurant and disabled them. Now the kitchen has to close while he continues to rake in millions of dollars for himself and go wherever he pleases, looking for more people to sue.

He should do everything he can to ensure minority rights and to promote access for the disabled, as long as he can do it without hurting entire communities in the process.

Is it the intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act to allow someone to profit from depriving people of their livelihood? Is the purpose of ADA to render businesses inaccessible to everyone just because some people canand#8217;t make it up the steps? If the answer to those questions is yes, then the ADA is unfair and needs to be reformed.

Anyone working at Donner Lake Kitchen would have been more than happy to physically carry Scott Johnson up the steps into their restaurant and treat him like a king, but no. He has to sue for money. The human cost be damned.

ADA can create injustice where none existed. It gives disabled people an excuse to feel victimized, and creates a never-ending stream of allegations that small business owners discriminate against the disabled when all they are trying to do is survive.

I have deep compassion for the severely disabled, even when they infringe on the rights of the less disabled. As a disabled person I have the right to take my disabled niece out for a great breakfast. I find it odd that a disabled person helped prevent us from doing so.

Restore common sense. It is time to take a stand. It is time for peaceful, nonviolent civil disobedience. Oppose widespread lawsuits. Re-open Donner Lake Kitchen.

Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 28 years.


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