“This is so exhausting.” This quote is from Kelly Tobin, a CCDC member who uses a power chair and has multiple disabilities. This was her sentiment on a day when we should have been excited about participating in our government. She was feeling hurt as we all were at being excluded once again –this time from the Polis Inauguration.
CCDC had asked ahead of time and been assured of full accessibility. We were told a sign language interpreter would be there and we advertised that. We were told there would be seating for those with disabilities in need. We reached almost a month ago and offered help. We shared specific things to think about to make this inclusive of our community. Our offer to help with accessibility was rebuffed and we were promised accessibility was handled. I guess we were wrong to believe this representation from their staff.
I had been to other inaugurations, Hickenlooper, Ritter, and Owens. All of those ceremonies were accessible in that people could show up and listen. Wheelchair users could see and those with other mobility impairments got seating up close and could get around the area. Today there were tents, barriers, and cops keeping public members out. We were blocked as we entered the Capitol area from the Colfax side. We were told there was a public space down the hill on Lincoln Street –we asked about ADA seating and the guard said he knew nothing about it. One of our members who has a service dog, wanted to get her dog inside before the cannons went off. She is very limited in her ability to walk distances safely. The cops refused to let her in the door of the capitol that was close to us, nor could she walk around the short way but would have to walk all the way around the building. They said she had to go through security, she was wearing an ID badge and they could have walked her across the cafeteria and had her go through security…but no.
We went down to the “public” area. If there was an ADA section we could not see it. There were barriers on the street so we could not get off of the sidewalk if we wanted to. We looked at the big screen and saw neither a sign language interpreter nor captioning. If there was an interpreter it was hidden.
Over the West Steps of the Capitol were large banners that said Colorado for All….I guess that meant Colorado for All except for people with disabilities.
The disability community had sent Governor Elect Polis a letter on 12/13 and asked for a response and an introduction to the new Boards and Commission person before the inauguration. Is this a sign that asking nicely is not going to work with this Governor? Good thing we have a strong ADAPT chapter.
It is always disappointing to be excluded but it is especially gut wrenching when the exclusion is created by someone who screams from the rooftops that they are invested in a Colorado for All. Is this really for all of us…or just for some? If this is Colorado for all, then it is important that Governor Polis acknowledges our community.