I'm not a vegetable that needs to be watered every two days, I'm leading a life,"" says a quadriplegic professor of mathematics and computer sciences, driving his own van equipped with hand controls. In this plea for accepting the handicapped, New York Times reporter Sonny Kleinfield shares visits with a number of men and women trying to live normal lives despite severe handicaps--a gas station attendant, brain-injured in childhood by an abusive mother; a quadriplegic married couple, with full-time attendants, who live on New York's Roosevelt Island (particularly accessible to the handicapped); a working physician, crippled by polio in mid-career; a young man with muscular dystrophy, venturing from his parents' home to attend college. Kleinfield also spotlights several unusual programs: Berkeley's Center for Independent Living, founded in 1962 by a quadriplegic student, now serving 5,000; Michigan State's $5 million effort to make the entire university accessible; a Boston elementary school that ""mainstreams"" 95 handicapped among its 700 students. And he cites new devices like ""beep baseball,"" invented by the Telephone Pioneers of America. An estimated 50 million Americans are handicapped, and despite legislation prohibiting job discrimination and mandating access, less than half the ""employable"" work, and architectural bartiers such as curbs and narrow doorways abound (an appendix lists some organizations working on this). Further obstacles are public hostility (partly caused by a subconscious fear of becoming handicapped) and transportation problems (barely mentioned, perhaps because of the political quagmire surrounding Transbus). Not exhaustive, but useful in its selective approach.