Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Disabled delegate says Democratic Convention very accessible

From The National Journal interview with Mary Troupe, a wheelchair user and delegate from Mississippi:

Mary Troupe is attending her first convention as the first disabled delegate from the state of Mississippi.

Troupe is the director of the Mississippi Coalition for Citizens With Disabilities, a nonprofit based in Jackson, where she lives. She praises the city of Denver and the Democratic Party for the convention's wheelchair accessibility. True, she, like others, is staying at a hotel "in the boondocks." But she's there with the rest of her delegation.

And that's how Troupe has always wanted things.

"It's very, very important that the disability community be inclusive with the general population," she said. "They need to learn who we are, and we need to do outreach to them and tell them that we want to work."

Troupe has been wheelchair-bound since her husband shot her in 1971. Even as a victim of spousal abuse, she still had trouble winning custody of her 5-year-old child because of her disability. "That still happens today," she said.

"I guess from the day that I was injured, I started working and advocating because I was advocating for myself," she explains. "But as I went to rehabs and hospitals, I saw people that didn't have the skill level, that didn't have the family support that I had, that were not being able to access services."

Troupe, now 61, raised her son and has a daughter from a second marriage. These days, with her children fully grown, she's able to enjoy life as a grandmother.

Troupe, a graduate of the University of Mississippi, also sits on the federal Access Board. She has also been involved with the Equity and Inclusion Campaign, a policy advocacy group, where she has helped people with disabilities who were affected by Hurricane Katrina.

The Americans with Disabilities Act made life much easier for many disabled people, Troupe said, but there is still work to be done.

"We have talent, we have intelligence," she said, "and let's focus on the abilities, not the disabilities."