Major Dan Gade was someone you should know a few years ago - if you recall, he was someone who was not supposed to make it. And his story is one of those occasions where I started to believe in miracles. And I know you all had a lot to do with it.
A few months ago, Dan and I, now friends, were meeting for lunch at Old Ebbitt's Grill in DC. Dan, not in uniform, pulled up on his Segway and a citizen on the street made fun of him for being lazy. Major Gade, professionally and politely, informed him that he had only one good leg thanks to an IED in Iraq - talk about a testament to living honorably, Dan handled it a lot differently (better) than I would have. The man, thinking he was being funny only to find out that he made a giant ass out of himself, sort of slithered away. We entered Old Ebbitt's and the host noticed Dan's purple heart ribbon on his suit jacket and said he had two as well from Korea and then pointed to his own lapel. He offered to get Dan a PH lapel pin custom made with a device signifying two awards like his own. [I've always been treated well at Old Ebbitt's and it was good to see that Dan was too.] When we left, the man that had attempted humor at Dan's expense returned to apologize and offer his hand - I think he was waiting for Dan to leave Old Ebbitt's. Dan thought that act took a lot of guts and thanked him, too.
The Segway is very important to Dan and others who have struggled to not depend on a wheelchair - to be able to stand on their own.
Major Dan Gade needs your help to raise awareness about the importance of the Segway:
As many of you know, I was seriously wounded in Iraq in 2005, and lost my right leg. I am not alone: the war has produced more than 800 amputees of various degrees of severity, and many more with burns, joint fusions, and other issues resulting in decreased mobility. For many of us, the solution to our mobility issues- the thing that enables us to get around our college campuses, places of work and worship, golf courses, and other locations, is the Segway. A Segway is to a person with a mobility problem as a guide dog is to a person who is blind.
Originally designed as a "hip and cool" device for people to get around their communities, the Segway has become, in some respects, a 'standing wheelchair' for many of us for whom a wheelchair is not required. It offers unlimited indoor and outdoor mobility, quiet operation, safety, and increased longer-distance mobility. In addition, it offers greater health benefits because of the reduction in the amount of time we spend sitting on a daily basis, and greater dignity because of the ability to carry on conversations at eye height with a standing person instead of at navel height. This is not to say that a wheelchair is not dignified in any way- those who rely on wheelchairs for their mobility are undoubtedly grateful for the mobility they offer- but simply to point out that standing is more similar to walking than sitting is.
However, for a variety of reasons, certain venues which allow wheelchairs (Federal law requires it) choose not to allow Segways. Part of this is the perception that Segways are dangerous- in fact, no person has ever been hurt by a person with a disability riding a Segway- and part of it is a fear of new technology. In any case, Disney Corporation and its affiliates, as well as numerous mall conglomerates, choose to allow their fear of the unknown or new to overrule their compassion and common sense, and force those with Segways to use rented, unfamiliar wheelchairs to negotiate their parks and venues. Interestingly, Disney World in Orlando offers Segway tours of its parks in the morning (for a sizable fee), and its executives use Segways to get around the park, demonstrating that it is not the device which Disney fears, but the use of the device by a person with a disability. In other words, Disney is choosing to discriminate on the basis of disability, in clear violation of the spirit of Federal Law and common decency.
The problem with Disney is not theoretical: in December of 2006, I was staying at a Disney property and planning on going to the park the next day with my wife and friends, but was informed by my host (a Disney executive) that my Segway was not welcome. As you can imagine, this would have been crushing to my daughter, had she been along on that trip. I, and many others like me, have worked very, very hard to be able to stand and walk- to be told that I'm only welcome if I'm willing to sit is insulting to me. I suppose it's a matter of pride in some ways, but I am proud of my service and sacrifice, and have no intention of allowing Disney or anyone else to force me to use a wheelchair when my injuries don't require it. The Segway is a means of resuming my life as closely as possible to what it was before.
But you can help: On Tuesday the 18th of June, the Department of Justice released a "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" which seeks public comment on whether Segways should be accommodated in the same way as wheelchairs when they are operated by a person with a disability. You can help by simply contacting the Department of Justice and stating that disabled veterans and others with mobility issues should be accommodated in all circumstances, whether they use a Segway or a wheelchair. It would be best to express your views in your own words rather than quoting me, but only because "form letters" are counted by DOJ as single comments rather than separate ones.
HOW TO HELP:
1) You can do it on-line here (do the same thing on both links: they are for government/public facilities like courthouses and for private entities like stores, malls, and amusement parks, respectively):
2) You can mail in comments to:
P.O. Box 2846
Fairfax, VA 22031-0846
Reference "CRT Docket # 105" in your first note and "CRT Docket #106" in your second note. Again, it's two different things, so write TWO NOTES, one with CRT 106 and one with CRT 105 as the subject.
3) FORWARD THIS NOTE TO OTHERS. In 2004, when I requested stockings for my soldiers in Iraq, I received over 1500. I'd like this same level of commitment to those who returned on stretchers and are trying to get their lives back!
Please feel free to contact me with any questions:
MAJ, US Army
daniel.gade AT us.army.mil