Theo Braddy examines myths, stereotypes and assumptions about people with disabilities.
No, this is not an incident about Mr. Trump! It is about the President of Harcum College.
On Tuesday, December 6th my son who attends a prep school in New Jersey informed me that his team would be playing a game at Harcum College in Bryn Mawr, PA.
He asked if I could attend since he loves playing games on college basketball courts and he knows I enjoy it as well. Although the game was scheduled to be played at 7 pm, and I dislike driving on rainy nights, I decided to make the drive. What normally would have taken an hour and thirty minutes took me 2 hours, but I arrived at 6:55 pm.
I quickly pulled into Harcum College and luckily saw an accessible parking space, which just so happened to be where the game was being played. I then go to a clearly marked wheelchair access entrance. I go over to where a student who greeted visitors and directed them to the playing court. She sees I am in a wheelchair and tells me we have a wheelchair lift, but it only goes up to the second level. It doesn't go to the lower level where the game is being played. I tell her that there must be a second accessible entrance. She then tells me she didn't think so, but she would go get the facilities manager to make sure. I then sit there waiting, as non-disabled visitors walk pass me and go straight to the game, and now I am feeling more and more humiliated and frustrated because I know my son's game is starting by now.
I then see the facilities manager walking towards me. He quickly tells me how sorry he is, but she is correct, both entrances have stairs. He then opens the double doors and shows the stairs to me. I tell him that this can not be the case, that I drove 2 hours to see my son's game and that now he is telling me that there is absolutely no way I can access the game. I tell him that this is a violation of access laws. He just stands there! As I continue to express my frustration, I see a man in a suit squeeze around my left side as I continue to talk. I am thinking he is a father just like me, trying to attend the game and wondering why I am holding things up. He turns around quickly to say something to the facilities manager. They whisper to each other, the man then looks back at me and continue down to the game.
Now, the facilities manager focus back on me. Now, being really frustrated I ask him to give me the contact information for the President of the college, that I wanted to file a formal complaint. He smiles and tells me that the man he was just talking to was the President. I say, the guy that squeezed by me is the president? He said, yes. I then, after a moment to regroup from hearing it, tell him would he go down and tell him I would like to speak with him? He goes down after him. After a moment or two the manager comes back up alone, telling me the president asked him to give me some contact information and he then goes to his office and then hands me the information. It is the contact information for the Director of Safety.
After I get the facilities manager name, I get back on the road, not even being able to let my son know I was at the game.
This was one of the most humiliating experiences of my entire 40 or more years as a person living with a disability. Not being able to attend my son game due to a lack of access was bad enough but then being completely dismissed by the President made it excruciatingly painful.
I don't want this to happen again to any other person with a disability, so it needs to be legally pursued and remedied.
People with all types of disabilities need to be free to participate in all activities and events, just like those persons without disabilities who walk right by me and entered the game. And yes, that includes the President of the college who squeezed passed me and dismissed my very real situation.
This is a real-life story that demonstrates how both physical and attitudinal barriers can rob people with disabilities from real experiences that truly matter to them.