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Wheelchair Bound Vietnam Veterans: Some Would Still Treat Us as Second Class Citizens

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Three decades later, and notwithstanding the $20 million in spending for a celebration of United States success in Iraq and Afghanistan that has found its way into our current Federal budget, if you're a wheelchair bound Vietnam Veteran (with emphasis on being wheelchair-bound) you just might find yourself once again being treated unfairly. This, as my own recent events, and as elaborated in the following letter, found.

The Letter

October 2, 2006

New Hyde Park Council No. 2852
Knights of Columbus
1000 Marcus Avenue
New Hyde Park, NY 11040

Dear Knights of Columbus New Hyde Park Council No. 2852:

After 37 years, I unfortunately was once again reminded what it feels like to be treated as a second-class citizen. This time because you, Council 2852,

choose to have no handicapped access

to your catering hall.

Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32 was hosting a once-in-a-lifetime event this past Saturday -- their 25th Anniversary Dinner. Having served three tours in Vietnam in the '60s and finding myself relegated to a wheelchair full-time in the '90s due to that service, to then be told on Saturday that all you could do to get me (600 pounds with my motorized-chair) into your building was to provide four waiters who would try to carry me up a dozen steel steps in the back of your building, was not something I expected to find in the year 2006. This, especially after I had called your establishment several weeks earlier to check on its handicapped accessibility and was told it was.

To quote from the Knights of Columbus credo, "Mutual aid and assistance are offered to sick, disabled...." And you even consider yourself, Council 2852, the "Can Do Council."

I might not be a member, but one thing I do know that

you could not do

-- provide a way for this veteran to join in my long awaited celebration with my surviving Vietnam veteran brothers and sisters this past Saturday.

You should be ashamed.

Respectfully, Walter C. Schmidt

Post Script

It seems "within" the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA") there still exists a way for public-facilities to legally not have wheelchair accessibility.

I'm sure my Iraq and Afghanistan brothers and sisters would agree, take some of that aforementioned $20 million in budgeted celebration money and spend it to plug the ADA legal loopholes that keep wheelchair bound individuals from gaining access to facilities that hold themselves out as being available for public events.

To end on a positive note and for all of my fellow wheelchair bound veterans -- eligible veterans now have an opportunity to purchase the iBOT 4000 Mobility System, developed by Independence Technology, through medical coverage provided by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) - placed on the Federal Supply Schedule in 2005 under contract number V797P-3006M.

Assessments are now being conducted at VA hospitals with coverage criteria taking into account a veteran's medical diagnoses, prognosis, functional abilities, limitations, goals, and ambitions.

However, it may not be suitable for everyone. Users must: weigh between 75 lbs and 250 lbs, have the ability to operate a hand-operated joystick, and complete the training program.

Veterans who are interested in evaluating the iBOT system can obtain more information and a video of it in action at

or call 1 (866) 813-0788 to speak with an iBOT representative regarding VA coverage.

And why am I mentioning this here and now? Among other things the iBOT 4000 Mobility System climbs stairs!

You have to love technology.

--- Regards, Walt Schmidt