Disabled Denver councilman forced to crawl onstage for debate in humiliating experience

A partially paralyzed Denver City Council member was forced to undergo the humiliating experience of having to crawl onstage for a recent debate due to a lack of wheelchair access at the venue that was hosting the event.

Video of the councilman, Democrat Chris Hinds who is paralyzed from the chest down as he struggles to get onto the stage at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre last week has gone viral, drawing outrage as well as calls for equal access.

Hinds, who is running for a second term, showed up at the theatre for the February 13 debate where he found himself at a disadvantage compared to other participants who had no trouble getting onto the stage, resulting in him having to hoist himself up in front of dozens of onlookers, an experience that left him shaken and angry while making national headlines.

Hinds told USA Today that after he arrived at the theatre and discovered that there was no wheelchair accessibility to the stage and that an organizer proposed that he be lifted onto the stage, drawing a response from him that the chair weighed 400 pounds and that he himself weighted “almost another 200.”

“And they said alright, well how about you get out of the wheelchair, and we’ll just lift the chair up?’ Hinds added. “They gave me a chair that I could cling on to so I’m not just laying on stage.”

“I felt like a circus monkey,” he said. “Just there on display for everyone to do whatever.”

“I am incredibly disappointed and disheartened after the public humiliation I endured at Monday’s District 10 City Council Debate,” Hinds said in a statement. “The lack of wheelchair accessibility on the stage at the debate culminated in an extremely uncomfortable outcome: I had to climb out of my wheelchair and attempt to crawl onto the stage in front of a crowd.”

The venue has since apologized for the unfortunate situation and the embarrassment that it caused the councilman.

Hinds said that he was encouraged by the outpouring of support and hoped that his humiliation could serve as a “teachable moment” in an interview with the Mile High City’s Fox News affiliate.

(Video: YouTube/Fox 31 Denver)

“The outpouring of support from the Denver community, from my constituents, and frankly from the entire nation has been just incredible,” Hinds said. “We all deserve access to get around our city, no matter who we are.”

Hinds sought to use his humiliation in a positive manner and posted a campaign video over the weekend after the incident.

“You may have seen me in the news recently for an incident that brought accessibility to the national stage,” he said. “Democracy should be representative of all the people. … Everyone deserves access to housing, transportation and representation.”

According to his website, “In July 2019, Chris Hinds was elected as the first Denver official – local, state, or federal – who uses a wheelchair for mobility. After his election, and nearly 30 years after ADA was passed into law, Denver made physical alterations to the City Council chambers, city hall, and areas around the Civic Center complex. Just as Denver has increased access for Chris, Chris has increased access for all in Denver.”


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