Letters from the week of April 6 , 2000

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Letters from the week of April 6 , 2000

At what price rehabilitation?
Regarding Patrick Dobson's article "Stroke Foundation Pulls Heartstrings but Angers Neighbors" (March 23-29): When the American Stroke Foundation (ASF) first requested a special-use permit, I attended the Overland Park City Council meeting to hear why some of my neighbors were upset with the proposal. As executive director of a nonprofit organization for the disabled, I support services that assist them, and the ASF's center sounded like a good idea.

At the meeting, I heard how ASF's house would not provide therapeutic services. Instead, it would only sponsor a support group and only teach stroke survivors how to walk on stairs, use the kitchen again, etc. Hearing this, I became concerned. They were describing acts of rehabilitation, which require state regulation and licensure. Yet, from the words being used, it was obvious ASF was trying to downplay the significance of its proposed services. I was concerned about their line of logic.

I became even more concerned about ASF's goals at another meeting, when I heard the group's lawyer basically threaten to sue the city under the Americans with Disabilities Act if the city denied its request for an adult day care permit. I knew from my experience that ADA law didn't apply to ASF's situation. After all, ASF was asking for special use of the house. And ADA is designed to ensure that businesses offer equal use of a facility. When I brought this to the attention of city council members and the mayor, they denied my expertise on the matter. I suggested they research ADA law to see for themselves. At a private follow-up meeting with the mayor, I suggested he simply call the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and ask for himself. While the mayor never made that call, I did. The Justice Department official with whom I spoke specifically told me ADA law did not apply to this situation.

One council member, Kris Kobach, did follow up on my original suggestion to research ADA law. He came to the same conclusion. And it was one of the brighter moments in my life when I later got to watch him question Overland Park's attorney on the subject. I truly believe that the city's lawyer would clearly rather have been anywhere else than in that room at that moment.

While the ASF may have had the best of intentions, its goals were clearly outside the boundaries that regulate residential neighborhoods. Eventually, ASF lost sight of these intentions and resorted instead to a win-at-any-cost objective. -- Brian Hogan

Overland Park, Kan.

Kudos!
Thank you so much for writing the feature about Richard Harriman and the Harriman Arts Program Gala ("Impressive Impresario," Feb. 24-March 1). The article was engaging and well-balanced, and the quotes from Dean Dunham added a great deal to the piece. Richard mentioned a few times how pleasant the interview experience was.

Warmest regards. -- Tim Ackerman

William Jewell College

Liberty, Mo.

Apathy at Science City
I have read positive and negative comments about Science City. As a science teacher, I wanted to be objective and see for myself. I arrived on a weekday at 10 a.m. The information girl was very helpful in answering questions and giving an overview. Immediately after I got to the exhibits, a couple busloads of students arrived. Here's what I observed: At the "Give the Weather" booth, two younger girls were trying to give the weather while five to six older children were standing behind and in front of these girls, making faces and just acting silly. The two girls continued to try to give the weather as the display was designed.

At the "Newsstand" booth, two children sat and exchanged insults while others waited. These two children did not leave when their time expired. There were many younger kids with their parents waiting a turn.

At the highly publicized station where children try to solve a mystery from clues, the biggest mystery was "Where's the help?" I saw 12 to 15 children of junior high age trying to figure things out. One of them even asked me for help. Over in the corner stood an employee dressed in a trench coat, looking at her fingernails. She completely ignored the children. Never once did I see her speak to anyone.

The two security guards could have passed as totem poles because they never moved. Directly in front of one of the guards was the athletic area where two large junior high boys were throwing the football through a hole in a net. They were doing this for 10 minutes without giving anyone else a turn. Finally, a father of one of the children spoke to the boys and they relinquished the football with loud commentary. Meanwhile, the spider continued to weave its web between the security guard and the wall.

I thought that the exhibits were well-constructed and interesting, but no one was around to help or answer questions. Unless Science City gets some improvement in supervision and interaction with exhibits, I don't see it being a fun experience for children who are at the mercy of older children.

I won't even comment about the lack of supervision from the people who brought the buses of students. -- Charles Rogers

Overland Park, Kan.

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