Denied a Cab Ride, Grieving for Who We Are…

Tomorrow I’m heading to the University of Michigan to participate in a program on accessible publishing hosted by the UM Press and the University’s library. As a blind writer who teaches I know as much as almost anyone about how difficult it often remans to get access to books, journals, online publications, websites, software platforms—it’s a long list. So my hat is off the the folks in Ann Arbor for taking seriously the challenges of access for people with disabilities and putting together an ambitious workshop on accessibility.

In a mood of warm anticipation, packing for my trip from Syracuse to Detroit, I was wholly unprepared for the mean spirited encounter I had by phone with a cab company in Ann Arbor this afternoon. Just recounting what happened is an exercise so objectionable I’m forced to be brisk as the altercation was nasty.

I told the man who answered the phone I needed a ride from Detroit-Ft. Wayne airport to the U of Michigan. He was agreeable. Then I said I had a guide dog. He was disagreeable. He said:

“These dogs are stinky, they go to the bathroom, they’re dirty, I can’t have them.”

“Not the first time this has happened to me,” I thought.

“Guide dogs are allowed everywhere,” I said.

“I don’t care, now you’re going to tell me all about your rights,” he said. (Sneering, he was. Your rights…uttered as if I was some whiny baby.

“Well yes,” I said, “it’s a violation of state and federal laws to deny a blind person and his dog a cab ride.”

“I don’t care,” he said.

“You should care,” I said. “It will become a big story. Plus there’s a huge fine associated with this.”

“I don’t care,” he said.

“This will become a news story,” I said. “I myself write for newspapers like the New York Times…)

It’s hard to describe the effect this had on him. He began shouting that Donald Trump had won the presidency and “you people” (apparently meaning blind New York Times readers) “don’t matter anymore.”

He was absolutely vicious and crowing about how people like me don’t matter.

I said, “well, I’m going to turn you in to the Department of Justice.”

He said he didn’t care.

I hung up.

I went upstairs to tell my wife.

Five minutes later he called me back.

I answered.

He said, “I have allergies.”

He’d apparently shared his conversation with someone else. This was his effort to pull his leg out of a hole.

“It doesn’t matter, you still violated my civil rights,” I said.

He began abusing me again. Hot, geothermic mistreatment.

I hung up.

I posted his company’s name and phone number and a description of what I’d experienced on Facebook.

I didn’t know the man’s name.

He apparently received dozens of phone calls throughout the afternoon, including some from the press.

He’s now claiming victim status. He has allergies. He can’t be expected to take a passenger with a service dog.

The law is very clear on this matter. He doesn’t have to. All he has to do is find me a cab that “will” take me.

He chose contempt and mean-spirited bullying.

Some people on Facebook have messaged me to say he now regrets the matter.

Me too.

Whatever happened to saying, “hey, I know all about having a physical condition! I have one myself. I can’t help you but I’ll get you someone who can.”

Instead he went into a rebarbative snarl and wouldn’t stop.

He apparently told someone on FB that I ruined his day.

I have in fact filed a formal complaint with the Department of Justice and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

I’m still shaking. I want to close by saying I’ve heard promptly from the U of Michigan. They’re as upset as I am.

Is Trump’s ascendancy now a patented script?

If you hail from a historically marginalized group you know the answer.




MacDowell Downtown Presents Activist Stephen Kuusisto This Friday, March 1

The following content was originally posted on the MacDowell web site by David Macy, Resident Director

MacDowell Downtown on Trusted Companions

This Friday evening at 7:30 p.m., author and Colony Fellow Stephen Kuusisto will share stories of guide dogs and their people experiencing the world together. A New Hampshire native and Fulbright Scholar, Kuusisto has appeared on programs such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, Animal Planet, and National Public Radio.

Entertainer and intellectual, poet and activist, Kuusisto could also be described as a surrealist comedian with a wise man’s heart. In the late 90s he served as Director of Student Services at Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a charitable nonprofit dedicated to training guide dogs for people with multiple disabilities. In 2000 he returned to his alma mater, the University of Iowa, to teach creative nonfiction at the graduate school. Today he directs the Renée Crown Honors Program at Syracuse University where he also holds the post of University Professor.

Returning to Peterborough after a hiatus of 18 years, Steve is the author of Planet of the Blind, a New York Times notable book, and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening. In his most recent book,Letters to Borges, published by Copper Canyon Press earlier this month, Kuusisto explores seeing, blindness and being through themes of travel, place, religion, music, art, and loneliness. In May he will be traveling for the U.S. State Department to discuss human rights and literature in Azerbaijan, Turkistan, and Kazakhstan. He is a fascinating character with a lot to say about a lot of things, and for Friday night the thematic link will be man’s best friend.

Please spread the word to those who might be interested… I look forward to seeing you all at Bass Hall!

David Macy
Resident Director

PS- check out the Friday Arts program from WHYY in Philadelphia; this documentary short by filmmaker and MacDowell Fellow Michael O’Reilly… it tells the story of visual artist Marc Brodzik and the impact his MacDowell experience has had on the arc of his career.

MacDowell Downtown
Talk and Reading by author and MacDowell Fellow Stephen Kuusisto

“A Place Among Dogs, or, How Service Animals Make Our World”

Friday, March 1, 2013
7:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Bass Hall at
The Monadnock Center for History and Culture
19 Grove Street
Peterborough, NH
Cost: Free

Jim Ferris, Laurie Clements Lambeth and Stephen Kuusisto Reading at Syracuse University

Disabilities as Ways of Knowing: A Series of Creative Writing Conversations: Part II

The Disability Experience and Poetic Verse

Reading by Poets Jim Ferris, Laurie Clements Lambeth, and Stephen Kuusisto

March 28, 2013
Reading 7:00 to 8:00 pm at Watson Theater
Reception and book signing from 8:00 to 9:00 pm at Light Work
SU Campus

Jim Ferris, Laurie Clements Lambeth and Stephen Kuusisto will be reading from a selection of their poetry, followed by a reception and book signing, for all members of the S.U. community. While this event is geared specifically to raise and support awareness among undergraduates, everyone is welcomed to participate in this exciting set of opportunities. This event will feature works from Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (Cinco Puntos Press) and launch Letters to Borges (Copper Canyon Press), where “best-selling memoirist Stephen Kuusisto uses the themes of travel, place, religion, music, art, and loneliness to explore the relationship between seeing, blindness, and being. In poems addressed to Jorge Luis Borges—another poet who lived with blindness—Kuusisto leverages seeing as negative capability, creating intimacy with deep imagination and uncommon perceptions” (from

American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation will be provided during both the reading and the reception/book signing. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) will be provided during the reading.

If you require accommodations or need information on parking for this event, please contact Radell Roberts at 443-4424 or

This event is made possible through the Co-Curricular Departmental Initiatives program within the Division of Student Affairs, and cosponsorship by the Disability Cultural Center, the Renée Crown University Honors Program, the Center on Human Policy, Disability Studies, the Burton Blatt Institute, the Dept. of Women’s and Gender Studies, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Slutzker Center for International Services, the Creative Writing Program, the Disability Law and Policy Program, the Disability Student Union, the Beyond Compliance Coordinating Committee, and the Disability Law Society.

As aspects of variance and diversity, disability cultures and identities enrich the tapestry of life on and off the SU campus.


Professor Stephen Kuusisto is the author of Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening” and the acclaimed memoir Planet of the Blind, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”. His second collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press, “Letters to Borges has just been released. Listen to Steve read “Letter to Borges in His Parlor” in this fireside reading via YouTube. He is currently working on a book tentatively titled What a Dog Can Do. Steve speaks widely on diversity, disability, education, and public policy.,