Making Waves: Ed Muegge fought the good fight

When Ed Muegge wheeled into the front door of businesses in his disability scooter, business owners wanted to run out the back.

Like bad guys when they see the sheriff ride into town.

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Ed didn’t mess with all businesses, only those without disability access, and especially those that gave him a bad time. A few gave him attitude and paid the price.

He sued them for millions, and won.

This Robin Hood on wheels, this defender of the meek, this avenger was a mild-mannered man with a big smile and corny jokes, was Ed Muegge. He was disabled and could not walk.

He lived his life on a scooter on Maui and was loved by all, except by business owners who refused to put in a scooter ramp.

It all began with the American Disability Act, the ADA, which required businesses to provide access to scooters and to anyone with a disability. If there is no ramp or if a disabled person can’t reach the cafe counter, the restaurant or supermarket is given time to fix it. If they refuse or scoff at the request, they are sued for huge amounts of money.

It was Ed who sued them and brought large chain stores to their knees, financially. He would wheel into a supermarket or restaurant and if he saw they didn’t comply with a ramp, a guard rail, or ADA sign he would kindly ask them to fix it. Woe to them if they ignored them.

He sued the Maui Walmart and more than a few other national establishments that later spent millions getting their businesses equal for all.

Ed only did it to give disabled people the same life as everyone else.

To me he was Saint Edward, defender of the disabled, Sir Ed of the Round Table. He would sue a major company and donate most of the money to charity and to counties to help others.

He helped the needy have equal access, and helped them again with the proceeds.

One day he wanted to come visit friends in Kona and could not get an accessible bus to visit them. He had to pay hundreds for a private van to drive two miles from the airport to the Palisades. It was a major hassle.

He saw that, like him, no disabled person on the Big Island could take the bus to visit friends and family. It was time to act.

He confronted Hawaii County about their ill-equipped buses. He won the case and now because of my friend, Ed Muegge, our island buses are available to all.

I was the friend, along with others, he visited in the Palisades and was there when he promised to make things right.

Ed was one of my very best friends. I loved that guy for being a great and generous human being and kind to all. He died right after Christmas. Thank him for letting everyone on our island ride the bus, and making this world a little more equal.

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We are paddling outrigger canoes out at Lahaina, Maui to spread his ashes near where he lived. Are those canoes accessible? You bet.

Dennis Gregory writes a bimonthly column for West Hawaii Today and welcomes your comments at makewavess@yahoo.com