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From New Horizons Director Liz Toone

July 27, 2010

I had an opportunity to attend the Prescott Rodeo recently with a friend who has a mobility challenge. We were seated in an accessible section of the grandstand. Much to my dismay, an usher asked me to sit behind my friend rather than beside him. Twice I was asked to move and twice I refused. The usher was wise enough to let it go, but I was nonetheless perturbed. If we had not been seated in the segregated accessible section, such a request would never have been made. We paid for our tickets like everyone else. What right did rodeo personnel have to ask me to move? 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has long fought for the civil rights and equality of people with disabilities. While progress has been made, we are still a society that largely assumes people with disabilities are somehow something less than others and somehow less deserving of equal rights. As my friend and I sat there in our separate little section, I noticed a sign that signified the area was for wheelchair users and that each wheelchair user is allowed one (so called) attendant, which is not only presumptuous, but precludes the ability of family or friends to be seated together in a group, a restriction that would not be imposed upon non-disabled people. To me, segregating people with disabilities in one area of a public place equates to being told to move to the back of the bus. Although my friend and I did not have other friends with us, if we had been part of a larger group we would not have been allowed to sit together.

In public places like the rodeo grounds, every effort should be made to scatter accessible sections throughout the global area to afford inclusion of people with disabilities so folks can sit with whom they choose, just like everybody else. It is wrong for people with disabilities to be socially marginalized. Accommodations need to be made not simply as a matter of meeting requirements of the law, but as a matter of ethically addressing the fundamental tenet of equality for all.

If you have an opinion on this issue feel free to leave a comment at any time.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 27, 2010 7:21 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to write this and express so eloquently the inequity I have felt so many times. This very scenario would happen to me as single-parent with three little kids. “They” actually wanted to separate me from my children because they didn’t have seating for a wheelchair user and her family. This continues to this day when I am out with my family which now includes my husband, kids and grandkids. I am segregated from enjoying an outing or family event because I am excluded from sitting in the same area.

    In fact, you may remember the story in my book where on Mother’s Day, down at ASU Gammage auditorium, I took my daughter to go see Les Miserables for her Senior Graduation Gift. I was told I could not sit next to my daughter. Excuse me? The day we dreamed of for several months, I could not place my arm around my daughter? I refused to move, like you, and after several ushers told me I must, I was finally threatened with arrest. I said, “Bring it on.”

    Well you’ll have to go back to the chapter in my book to see how it turned out. 🙂

    I applaud, I praise and honor you for standing up for equality.

    If more people would take a stand like you did, WE WOULD CHANGE the laws, (I was said to be a fire hazard sitting in the aisle) perceptions and ignorance.

    A million thanks.

    Nannette Oatley, Author of Pain, Power & Promise

  2. Tony Saverino permalink
    July 28, 2010 1:35 am

    I totally agree with your sentiments, but must point out that the scattering of wheelchair accessible areas throughout the facility will also entail raising prices;for everyone.

  3. Randy permalink
    July 28, 2010 6:27 am

    I have had a number of incidents at the Rodeo over the years and i am tired of it too. So, I would like to do something about it. I have wanted to contact the Rodeo administration and set up a meeting to explain the problems with their facility, and their volunteers. My understanding is most of the Rodeo is run by volunteers but they are in serious need of some training on this issue. There usually all very nice and trying to do their job but they need help.
    They did the same to me a few years ago when I wanted to have 2 people with me in the H section. they hassled me and family with only a few people using the whole area and they still refused.
    This year i bought tickets online and maybe I bought the wrong ones but they told me my nephew would have to leave if it filled up. They also continue to filter people through the worst possible entrance with a ramp that is way too steep. One year a volunteer jumped in front of me while i was doing a wheelie down the ramp so i did not fall on my face. There is another entrance within 40 feet that is completely level. The Rodeo grounds are now owned by the City of Prescott not Yavapai county as of a few years ago.
    The facility is in obvious need of upgrading but that is years away.
    I really want to follow up with the Rodeo on this issue.
    Please let me know how we should approach this.
    Take care,

  4. Liz Toone permalink
    July 28, 2010 5:01 pm

    Please call me at the office, 772-1266, so we can discuss.

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