Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Remembering Jeff Erlanger (III)

Isthmus | The Daily Page: By Vikki Kratz

I could not tell you what Jeff Erlanger's day job was, or even if he had one. I could not tell you much about his family, or what he liked to do for fun.

But I did know one side of Jeff, and that was the man who cared deeply about making the city of Madison a fair place for everyone. He served on several city committees, including the Commission on People with Disabilities and the Economic Development Commission.

I knew Jeff as the architect of the city's first summit on housing for the disabled. It was an idea he had promoted for more than a year, and he was thrilled when the city finally held the conference at Monona Terrace in April.

All Jeff wanted was for developers to think about people with disabilities when they build houses -- to make sure the doorways are wide enough for wheelchairs, eliminate steps at the entrance, put a bathroom on the first floor. Simple ideas that are, as ever, made more complicated by politics and state laws.

Jeff... focused much of his activism on improving the lives of people with disabilities. But Jeff was the kind of person who immediately dispelled any notion that you might have about treating the disabled with paternalism or pity. He was intelligent, funny and often politically savvy. He was the kind of person who, even if he hadn't been disabled himself, would have been at the table arguing for people's rights anyway.

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