DEAR READERS: In the hope that it will raise awareness about the rights of people with disabilities, I am continuing the subject of yesterday's column.
DEAR ABBY: I'm writing about "Kent," the 40-year-old man, bedridden with muscular dystrophy, who asked his friend, "Vic," to arrange his first sexual experience. His deeply religious parents were offended and now refuse to allow him any contact with his friend.
Abby, those parents have a right to determine what happens in their home. While the son lives there, he should respect the rules of the house. This is called RESPECT! -- MARGE IN CLARKSVILLE, TENN.
DEAR MARGE: Respect should work both ways. Those parents could learn a lot from meeting other parents of adult children with disabilities. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I am a social worker and advocate for individuals with disabilities. What was described in the letter is abuse on the part of the parents and should be reported to adult protective services immediately. "Kent's" caretakers have violated his religious and sexual rights as a human being, and this could be considered false imprisonment. Practices like these are often only the tip of the iceberg. Being a caretaker is about helping someone live, not forcing one's beliefs and practices on another. -- FURIOUS IN SAN JOSE, CALIF.
DEAR ABBY: It is illegal to prevent an adult dependent from having consensual sex or seeing friends. (This would not be the case if the woman had charged for her services –- which she did not. If she had, the parents would have the right to prohibit "illegal activities" in their home.)
Facility accreditation statutes prohibit such restrictions, but often it is not brought to the attention of the local human services department. Thank you for addressing this, Abby. -- DISABILITY ADVOCATE IN IOWA
DEAR ABBY: What do these parents think will happen to their son when they die? "Kent" needs to start learning to hire and deal with attendants, manage an apartment from his bed, coordinate medical care and all the rest of the skills that life on his own will involve.
Abby, he needs intervention and possibly legal services. These are listed in the phone book under headings such as "disability services" and even "legal aid." -- CATHRYN IN DANNVILLE, CALIF.
DEAR CATHRYN: When I answered the letter from "Vic," I did not realize that what the parents are doing could be interpreted as abuse. I want to thank you and my other readers for pointing that out.
DEAR ABBY: "Vic" deserves a medal for what he did for his friend. My husband and I are disabled with different disabilities. We must constantly deal with people who think we should give up our freedom. Thank you for printing that letter. If anyone can get the public to realize that adults with disabilities need to be regarded as worthwhile human beings, it's you.
Please don't reveal our name or location. We live in a small town with small-minded people. -- "X" IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR X: In addition to the letters I have printed, I have received many in which the writers poured out their hearts about the isolation they feel because of their disabilities. They want to love and be loved, to be recognized as having something positive to offer to those around them. Everyone has different qualities that make them unique and special. In today's world, people with disabilities have rights –- and being recognized as a sexual being is only one of them.