Kathy Shaidle tonight links a story of a Toronto couple, Geoff and Melissa Teehan, who are being blocked from razing an old house so they can build one that will be wheelchair-accessible because Melissa became quadriplegic due to a rare illness in 2007.
Regular gentle readers know that my late life partner was quadriplegic the last 10 years of her life due to multiple sclerosis. I had to learn a lot about U.S. laws affecting people people with disabilities in order to advocate for her effectively. It was a constant fight. The strangest battle lasted six years and pitted me against liberal/Leftist lesbians in Washington, D.C., who were at the top of the disability rights movement — they opposed my calls for them to choose a site that met federal accessibility standards for their annual all-day conference for lesbians.
It was that fight that taught me about the duplicity on which liberalism and Leftism are founded — their promises are only made to get your cooperation and not to be kept, some animals are more equal than others and God help you if you want a liberal or Leftist to keep their promises or do the things they demand of others.
Dear Kathy focuses her objections on two aspects of the story. First, she notes the Left-wing idealism of the neighbors who are cheerfully claiming the house must be preserved even if that financially destroys the Teehans and shatters their family. This is commonly called “hypocrisy,” but I don’t think that’s the right word — what Elizabeth Brown, the neighbor who is organizing opposition to the wheelchair accessible house, is doing is most properly called duplicity: it is a sociopathic con job. Brown is lying but has found a plausible guise for her dishonesty. After all, how would it look if she said she is cripple-phobic instead of a martyr to architectural preservation?
Second, dear Kathy points out that the Canadian Charter does not protect property rights.
I believe Elizabeth Brown is not in love with her view of the old house across the street that the Teehans need to demolish. I believe what’s really going on is that Elizabeth Brown does not want to see a quadriplegic living across the street from her. I believe the sight of a cripple sends Brown into an overwhelming guilt-trip: as a liberal, she must save the cripple, but the cripple can’t be saved and yet will be THERE, an object of pity and a constant reminder of all the ways that Brown ought to be rescuing her, which is an outrage, why can’t the pitiful cripple live somewhere else, the cripple MUST be driven out, somewhere, anywhere, so that Brown can continue to lead her life of poor boundaries without any cripples to shame her with the constant demands of her guilty conscience.
Geoff and Melissa Teehan should be looking into Canada’s hate crimes statutes and disability rights laws, if there are any. Elizabeth Brown is NOT protecting an old house. Elizabeth Brown is only looking out for herself because Melissa Teehan’s quadriplegia frightens and repulses her and overwhelms her with pity and shame. Meanwhile, all Geoff and Melissa Teehan want to do is build a wheelchair accessible home so she can be as independent as possible.
By the way, it’s wrong to believe that it is possible to renovate a house and make it truly wheelchair accessible. So many specific requirements go into making an environment truly wheelchair accessible that they have to be designed into the building in the first place. This means the Teehans really do have to demolish the house currently on the lot so they can build the wheelchair accessible house that Melissa needs.
Geoff Teehan describes searching for a property in their price range and preferred neighborhood that would suit their needs (boldfacing mine):
Price, scarcity and lot size. The last three years has had us essentially living in a hospital, a rehab centre and now a small condo. We held off making any huge changes in the hopes that my wife would have recovered to the point where she could use her arms and/or legs to get around Elmer – that hasn’t happened yet. 18 months ago we started looking at houses/properties. In that year and a half I’d guess there were around 8-10 properties on 50’ lots that came up for sale. (25’ lots don’t suit our needs as they aren’t wide enough and usually require going to 3 floors). Of these properties, all of them had inaccessible 3+ bedroom houses on them and were priced well outside our budget. Beech was the first home that came up in that period that had a 50’ lot even remotely close to what we could afford – It was priced about 25% less than even the cheapest house that came up. There hasn’t been another one since to my knowledge and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the last. I suspect if we tried to sell it now it’d be worth half as much partially thanks to Ms Brown and Ms Bussin’s attempt at Heritage Status. The house is unlivable as is – it’s the reason the last owners left.
Now, I was a Realtor from 1997 to 2004 in Montgomery county and Harford county in Maryland and I encountered only one home in all that time Margaret and I could have moved into without extensive, expensive renovations (that still would not have made the home truly accessible). That one home was a in a row of three townhouses that were intended to be a handicapped ghetto (as I recall, only one was finished). However, the Democrat County Council forced so many restrictions on who could own it to ensure that it was a cripple ghetto in perpetuity that it became unsellable. (The Realtor with the listing had a quadriplegic son and was a disability rights activist — but never bought the townhouse for her son or found a buyer.) If Brown succeeds at getting the Teehan’s house Heritage Status, that would be exactly like what the Montgomery County Council did to make the townhouse in their cripple ghetto unbuyable because it was unsellable.
The Teehans’ experience of having to build the home that would suit their needs is typical when a family member is paralyzed — as is the difficulty they encountered of finding a suitable property in their price range.
Which brings up another point — the price of the house the Teehans bought being so far below that of comparable homes AND the fact that the owners sold the house because it was unlivable tells Realtors that the house was in such bad shape it could only be sold to VERY motivated buyers like the Teehans OR to investors who also would be likely to demolish the obsolete house and replace it with a modern one they could sell for triple the price they paid. (The latter practice by investors and developers was common in Montgomery County in old neighborhoods in good school districts. The neighbors usually fought and generally lost.)
The bottom line is that the Teehans would do well to explore the argument that Brown is a crip-hating bigot in violation of Canada’s human rights laws. I think that’s exactly what she is. Otherwise, if Brown is working so hard to force Heritage Status on the Teehan’s home, shouldn’t she also be seeking Heritage Status for her own home?