Last week, I featured long-time journalist and disability advocate Finn Bullers of Kansas City, Kansas. I’m now featuring him again because of the breadth and depth of his accomplishments, and because of what he says.
Born with muscular dystrophy (MD), Bullers retired in 2009 after being a journalist about 30 years, including a stint covering county politics and suburban issues for the Kansas City Star. Eventually, the strain of having to work long days with MD was just too much. Today, he uses a power wheelchair, ventilator and a breathing tube. He has a son and daughter, ages 14 and 10.
In a telephone interview, 51-year-old Bullers said, “After 2009, I came to the conclusion I could use my journalism skills to be an advocate for people with disabilities. I now consider it my job. I go to the state legislature and Congress to testify. As much as this country has done over the last 25 years (due to the Americans with Disabilities Act), there is much more to do. We are coming up on the ADA’s twenty-fifth anniversary in July, which will be a great opportunity for advocates and supporters to begin chopping down the 70 percent unemployment rate in the disability community. The rate is higher today than when the ADA was signed 25 years ago.”
United Spinal Association (USA), the “largest disability advocacy group of its kind,” said Bullers, with 44,000 members representing 58 million Americans with disabilities, in 2014 named Bullers its “Advocate of the Year.” According to a USA press release, Bullers “led a relentless, intelligent campaign” to reverse a KanCare (Kansas Obamacare) decision that had limited certain healthcare benefits, and had advocated on issues affecting Americans as a whole, including the providing of power wheelchairs to people in need.
He said, “There is a real need in this nation for a dialog about stereotypes (concerning people with disabilities). Being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you don’t have a lot to contribute. I’m a writer and I can do that on a computer anywhere in the country. (People that use wheelchairs) ought to be able to get a job and be productive citizens.”
He said many Americans still treat wheelchair users in a condescending fashion, meaning they often talk louder or dumb down their speech to them, or ignore the person using the wheelchair while talking to that person’s companion instead.