Chris Hinds—a city councilman in Denver, Colorado who uses a wheelchair—says he was "humiliated" and "felt like a circus clown" after he was forced to hoist himself onstage at the venue for a mandatory debate because the stage was inaccessibl
The debate, held at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance studio, was mandated by the Fair Elections Fund, Denver's new public campaign financing mechanism.
Unfortunately, Hinds was under pressure to appear at the debate because if he didn't participate he would have been forced to forfeit $125,000 in Fair Elections Fund money that he had gotten so far.
Hinds said he felt like he had to choose "to either preserve the campaign's viability or his dignity" and the image of him hoisting himself onstage is a stark reminder of the venue's lack of wheelchair accessibility and its failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Per the law, buildings must remove "architectural barriers" that could adversely impact an individual's ability to receive the full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, or facilities.
You can see the image of Hinds hoisting himself onstage below.
In an official statement, Hinds said he feels "incredibly disappointed and disheartened after the public humiliation [he] endured," noting that the venue's lack of wheelchair accessibility "culminated in an extremely uncomfortable outcome."
Hinds' office also criticized the Fair Elections Fund's stipulation that he would have to forfeit campaign funds if he did not appear, saying he "had to choose to either preserve the campaign's viability or his dignity" onstage.
Many expressed their anger on Hinds' behalf and praised him for speaking out.
The failure on the part of the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance studio to ensure wheelchair accessibility at the debate is an example of ableism, which is defined as discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities or who are perceived to be disabled.
While a spokesperson for the venue told reporters the facility is ADA compliant, they acknowledged the stage itself had limitations and said the venue would seek a long-term solution.
Paul D. López, with the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s Office, said in a statement that he "apologized to Councilman Hinds personally" and that his office "continues to communicate with all debate sponsors to ensure that they can fulfill ADA requirements and other needs."