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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Disrespected in Life and Death

Three days ago a "wheelchair bound" man was killed near my apartment building. The "wheelchair bound man" was killed at the Plum and Erie Boulevard West intersection and dragged by a tractor trailer to his death. I knew the man by sight as I have crossed the street at the same intersection on a regular basis. Once we both commented about how dangerous the intersection was. Initial news stories did not identify the man. He was just news fodder. His name did not matter. "Wheelchair bound man" sufficed. It was not until three days after he died that his name was mentioned. The man's name was Dennis Morse. He was 63 years old. There is no mention of Mr. Morse's family. No mention of a funeral. No mention of what he did for a living. "Wheelchair bound man" sufficed.

Today a "wheelchair bound man" was killed in Detroit. He too has a name but no reporter in Detroit bothered to include it in any news story. The story is limited to "wheelchair bound man" killed in hit and run. Police are looking for information. Pedestrian vehicle crashes never end well. Pedestrians are killed by cars in large numbers. Almost 5,000 pedestrians are killed by cars yearly. Those at the highest risk are the elderly, children, and yes, the "wheelchair bound". This does not surprise me. The elderly often walk slowly and their vision and hearing can be impaired. Kids are impulsive and unpredictable. They are smaller too and harder to see. The "wheelchair bound" are lower and I can say with confidence the most dangerous part of my daily life is crossing the street or navigating parking lots. I have almost been hit more times than I want to acknowledge. I am exceedingly careful. But sometimes I have no choice. I must enter the street as curb cuts can be absent, blocked, or so steep they cannot be navigated. I know more than a few people who use a wheelchair that have been hit by a vehicle. We wheelchair users are 36% more likely to be killed by a vehicle than your average biped. Link:

When a biped is killed by a vehicle the headline is very different. "Man Killed Crossing the Street". The first sentence will identify the man by name or will state something like "the police have not released the name of the victim until kin notified." The wheelchair bound remain nameless. This has always bothered me. Today it was not that hot so I walked into downtown Syracuse. I ambled to the spot where the man in Syracuse was killed. I could see the remains of wheelchair parts in the gutter. A piece of the footrest. A part of an arm rest. A bunch of bearings near a stick. No one who has not used a wheelchair for decades would recognize the remaining bits of a wheelchair. I saw the parts and was deeply sad. I wonder who Dennis Morse was. Did he have a brother or sister? Did he have a wife and children? We will never know. "Wheelchair bound man killed" seems to suffice. As I have repeatedly stated ableism kills.


Unknown said...

I was actually hit in March by a driver making a left turn as I was crossing the street. Thank goodness I was going at a fast enough clip that she clobbered and dislodged my battery case and not me. Three months later, a similar event happen. I screamed when I saw her veering at me. If she didn't hear, I'd be in really bad shape. It's getting bad out there.

william Peace said...

I once knew a car backing up in a parking was going to hit me. It was going slow and I took both hands and pushed off the rear bumper. Only yhem did driver see me. They stopped and yelled at me for being out without a care taker.

dtmitchel said...

This is exactly how I know I will die traversing the streets of Washington, DC I'm sorry to here about the loss of this individual by a tractor trailer truck of all things!

Unknown said...

I use a Rollator. Crossing streets where I live is always a matter of taking my life in my hands.

Lights change so quickly, cars run the lights or make illegal turns ... and do on, endlessly.

Sorrow for "wheelchair bound man".