Chris Hinds Humiliated After Lack of Accessibility at Debate
A Denver City Councilman was left humiliated after he was forced to crawl onto a debate stage with no wheelchair access. Chris Hinds, a councilman who uses a wheelchair, had been told he was “legally obligated” to participate and would forfeit $125,000 in campaign financing if he didn’t. He was told he had to “choose between the campaign’s viability or his dignity on the stage.”
Hinds had no choice but to participate in the debate, as his wheelchair weighed 400 pounds, meaning it was impossible to lift it onto the stage. The debate organizers ended up moving it to the ground in front of the first row of theater seats, allowing Hinds to remain in his wheelchair.
City Clerk Paul López apologized to Hinds and said his office continues to communicate with all debate sponsors to ensure that they can fulfill ADA requirements and other needs. Patricia Smith, a spokesperson for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre, said that requests for additional or enhanced accommodations were not received ahead of the event. Malik Robinson, the executive director of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, said that the team develops short-term stage accommodations in advance of events and are looking for a long-term solution.
Despite the ADA being passed more than 30 years ago, Hinds pointed out that many people with disabilities still struggle with lack of access. He said that when he was elected to the council, the chambers where they hold meetings were not wheelchair-accessible, nor were the restrooms at City Hall.
Hinds exclaimed, “I felt like a circus clown,” “Our democracy is stronger when it represents everyone, and this is another example why we need disability representation.”
The Fair Elections Fund will match individual donations of up to $50 at a rate of 9:1, and the total size of the fund is $8 million, which includes administrative costs. The April 4 2023 election is the first municipal election since the implementation of the fund.
Hinds said he hopes the incident serves as a reminder of why it’s important to have disability representation in government and that ADA accessibility is still an issue.
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8. “Denver City councilperson forced to crawl onto debate stage with no handicapped access” Boing Boing, 16 Feb. 2023, https://boingboing.net/2023/02/16/denver-city-councilperson-forced-to-crawl-onto-debate-stage-with-no-handicapped-access.html
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