Are you a person with a disability or the parent/spouse/friend/caregiver of a person with a disability? Were you planning on attending the inauguration today in Washington, D.C. ? If so, I’m sure you’ve heard by now that the event is far from accessible.
The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, in fact, has issued warnings that some people with disabilities interpret as a message that says, "If you have a disability, please do not attempt to attend the inauguration."
On its Web site, the committee warns that handicapped parking will be limited and not close to the Capitol, and that there will be fewer drop-off points for people using wheelchairs. Accessible seating is limited for those with tickets to the swearing-in ceremony. And, "persons in wheelchairs or utilizing walkers should be aware that they will need to move across bumpy surfaces, grassy areas and possible icy areas (depending on the weather)."
"This is like a big, bold sign that says if you're a person with a disability, this is not your event," Richard Simms, executive director of the D.C. Center for Independent Living said.
The inaugural committee can't work crowd-control miracles, but as Andrew Imparto, president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities has said, "We'd hope the congressional committee could figure out a way to accommodate everybody. Our experience is that when accessibility is taken seriously, it makes for a smoother event all around."
I know soon-to-be-President Obama is very, very busy with the life-changing events that have been put in motion, but I would like him to remember the story he told of his father-in-law in this video he made during his campaign. More than anyone, Barack and Michelle Obama should be sensitive to this issue…