​City Councilman Forced to Crawl from His Wheelchair onto Inaccessible Debate Stage

Posted by Stephanie Woodward in Daily Dose on March 16, 2023 # News

Chris HineAs his first term is coming to a close, Councilman Chris Hinds is prepared to run for his seat on Denver’s City Council again. When Councilman Hinds was elected to serve as Councilman for Denver's District 10, he was the first Denver official to use a wheelchair. He has now served on Denver’s City Council since 2019 and has made great strides in improving accessibility throughout the city, as well as helping to uplift Denverites by working to raise the minimum wage, keep housing affordable, and create job training opportunities.

Given all of the work he’s done for his constituents and his community over the past four years, Councilman Hinds has become a well-known leader throughout Denver. Yet, on February 13, he was humiliated by being forced to crawl onto the City Council District 10 debate stage.

The debate was held at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre, a venue that was approved to host the debate by the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s Office. Event organizers did not work to ensure that the venue was accessible, and when Councilman Hinds arrived, there was no plan in place to ensure he could get onto the stage. In fact, the debate was delayed while event organizers tried to figure out how to get the Councilman on the stage - first suggesting that they lift him and his 400-pound power wheelchair, before ultimately deciding to make him crawl onto the stage in order to debate the other candidates.

Pictures and videos of the mortifying moment quickly spread across the internet, leaving many people aghast and outraged at how Councilman Hinds was treated, especially 32 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. However, instead of acknowledging the harm that they caused and apologizing, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance blamed Councilman Hinds for their venue’s lack of accessibility.

“There were no requests for additional or enhanced accommodations,” said Patricia Smith, a spokesperson for Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. In their statement, the dance school failed to acknowledge that whether or not a request for access was made, they are required to be accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Colorado law.

Putting the law aside for a moment, it is notable that the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance school knew that the event they were hosting was a City Council Debate specifically for District 10, and it is no secret that Councilman Hinds - the incumbent candidate for District 10 - is a wheelchair user.

News outlets and community members were quick to call out the dance school for their inconsiderate and out-of-touch statement.

After their initial gaffe of a statement blew up in their faces, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance eventually released another statement - this time apologizing to Councilman Hinds and acknowledging that it is not the responsibility of visitors to ensure their venue is accessible.

Denver Clerk Paul López, whose office approved Cleo Parker Robinson Dance to host the debate, has also apologized to Councilman Hinds. He stated that his office is now working with all of the city’s debate sponsors to ensure they are following accessibility requirements - of course, this is something that they should have been doing long before 2023.

Stephanie Woodward is an attorney and Executive Director of Disability EmpowHer Network, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering girls and women with disabilities. Stephanie is passionate about seeking justice for marginalized communities - and has an arrest record to show for it. As a proud disabled woman and civil rights activist, Stephanie is committed to bringing more women and girls with disabilities to the forefront through mentoring and activism.

Photo Credit: Denver's Perfect 10

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