To say Andrew Pulrang will be missed is a waste of breath: Anyone who has had any contact with him as executive director of the North Country Center for Independence realizes that truth. He will indeed be missed — but maybe just a little less now that we learn Robert Poulin will be his replacement.
The center has been a dominating presence for the North Country in reminding everyone of the need to take into account the challenges of people with disabilities.
It has brought to public attention the rightness in providing access at polling places, in commercial establishments and on city streets. When a wheelchair pedestrian can’t navigate an unshoveled sidewalk, chances are that the owner will hear from someone at the center or someone from the city who has heard from someone at the center.
The fact is that it’s all too easy for someone with full physical capacities to overlook the difficulties confronted by someone with limitations.
It is not an exaggeration to say life in the North Country is considerably different for all of us because of the efforts of Andrew Pulrang. The son of a physician who was once commissioner of the Clinton County Health Department and his wife, a noted and respected public advocate and personage, he brought an intelligence and grace to his position in giving voice to the once-silent minority.
He was firm in his entreaties for compassion and reason but never uncompassionate or unreasonable in making demands for the public’s ear. Short in stature, he cast a commanding shadow over the landscape of disability rights.
His sterling academic background — his master’s degree is from Dartmouth University — is matched by Poulin’s. Poulin also shares Pulrang’s experience in dealing with disability rights and his passion for the cause.
Poulin also has the character and temperament to build on Pulrang’s extraordinary record of effectiveness as an advocate for his constituency. He is pleasant in his community associations but unmovable in his commitment to the job.
Pulrang is retiring, and our best wishes go with him. His plans for that retirement apparently have not yet been crystalized, but our hope is that his vigor will be applied somewhere else that will result in good outcomes.
As for Poulin, we look forward to seeing the fruits of his continued involvement in this vital goal: to see that no citizen faces a disadvantage from others because of any physical or mental condition arbitrarily inflicted.
Like him, we look forward to the day when there is no need for a North Country Center for Independence.