A city councilor Denverin Colorado, which is a disabled personsaid he felt “humiliation” after he was forced to leave his wheelchair and try to get on stage, as a condition of being able to participate in an electoral debate, while the audience watched.
Chris Hinds, who is running for re-election, was told the public debate would be wheelchair accessible, but organizers did not provide a ramp.
Hinds, who is paralyzed from the chest down and uses a wheelchair, had no way to get onto the raised stage. to join the other participants.
The baffled staff suggested bringing Hinds and his 400-pound wheelchair onto the stage. That was impossible.
“So they said, ‘Well, how about you get out of your chair?’” Hinds told The Washington Post. Hinds felt that his re-election campaign was at stake and so he got out of his wheelchair and onto the stage. “I thought either I do what they want me to do, or I lose the viability of my campaign,” Hinds said.
A video of the event filmed by one of the attendees shows him trying to get on stage. Hinds got up from his wheelchair, swung his legs up onto the stage and held on to the leg of a metal chair as the audience murmured and debate organizers discussed how to accommodate him.
“I felt like a circus monkey,” Hinds told CNN on Thursday.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public spaces to accommodate people with disabilities.
The Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theater in Denver said in a statement Monday that there were “no requests for additional or enhanced accommodations” ahead of the debate.
The venue later apologized, acknowledging that while the theater was wheelchair accessible, the stage was not.
Hinds called the experience humiliating, and screenshots of him taking the stage and a subsequent Denver Post story drew criticism from politicians and disability advocates on social media.
Hinds hopes that the events will raise awareness to promote adaptations for the disabled and said that he entered local politics to promote them.
“This should be a teachable moment,” Hinds said. “…We shouldn’t be asking for accommodations for things that should have already been the law.”
The councilor also thanked everyone who has expressed their support, shared similar stories faced by disabled people, and renewed his intention to continue advocating for disabled people to have the access required by law.
Hinds was left paralyzed in 2008 after sustaining a spinal cord injury in an accident while riding a bicycle. His experience encouraged him to enter public service and advocate for people with disabilities.
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Source: La Opinion