No Wheelchair Access so Denver Councilman has to Climb on Stage

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City council member forced to climb onto Denver debate stage. MSN Photo

A councilman in the city of Denver, Colorado, has spoken of his “humiliation” after he had to hoist himself on to a debate stage from his wheelchair as a crowd looked on.

Chris Hinds was told the public debate would be wheelchair accessible, but organisers failed to provide a ramp.

City council member forced to climb onto Denver debate stage. MSN Photo

Video from the event shows him trying to drag himself on to the stage.

The American Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public spaces to accommodate those with disabilities.

Mr Hinds told the BBC it was a demoralising experience, adding: “I thought, ‘Here I am on stage, looking like a circus monkey.'”

But he said the “teachable moment” has also sparked an outpouring of support.

The councilman, who is paralysed from the chest down, is the first member to use a wheelchair.

Organisers suggested lifting Mr Hinds and his 400lb (181kg) wheelchair to the stage, but Mr Hinds did not feel it would be safe. Instead, organisers agreed to hold the debate off the stage, at audience level.

In a statement on Monday, The Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre in Denver said there had been “no requests for additional or enhanced accommodations” ahead of the debate. Nonetheless, Mr Hinds says, it is required to be compliant with the ADA.

The venue later apologised, acknowledging that while the theatre was wheelchair accessible, the stage was not.

Mr Hinds was an avid runner and soccer player before a crash paralysed him at the age of 34. His experience encouraged him to go into public service and advocate for people with disabilities.

His 2018 election spurred the city to make the council chambers wheelchair accessible by installing a ramp so Mr Hinds could be inaugurated.

His advocacy work also inspired the Chris Hinds Act, signed by Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper in 2018. It prevents the fraudulent use of disability parking in the state.

“This is just yet another reason why it’s important for us to have disability representation in all areas of leadership and influence,” Mr Hinds told BBC News.