Denver is home to the movement, spearheaded in 1983 by Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transit, that pushed for wheelchair lifts on buses and other improvements so that public transportation would be available for people with disabilities. In 1990, lifts were required as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In recognition to the ADAPT movement, transportation plans are in the works to make the Democratic National Convention in Denver the most handicapped-accessible convention ever held.David Kennedy, disability rights coordinator for the Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee, said he is finalizing his plans to transport delegates with disabilities to and from hotels and activities during the Democratic convention, Aug. 25-28. “Denver is the home of the movement championing the rights of the disabled, so we are setting high standards.”
Kennedy, who is also disabled, has been a long-time disability activist with more than 20 years of experience in project management for exhibitions, events, and building design projects, such as directing the ADA compliances for the new extension of The Denver Art Museum.
“First, we will find out in advance what special needs, such as mobility problems or hearing impairments, must be met,” Kennedy explained. “Then, we will design extensive day-to-day transportation plans to get those delegates with disabilities from the airport to hotels and to downtown for specific events, and then to the convention at the Pepsi Center.”
Joe Beaver, chair of the initiative Dems with Disabilities, a political arm of the Colorado Democratic Party, said he welcomed the efforts to accommodate delegates with disabilities.
“At the 2000 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, our Colorado delegates in wheelchairs were often the last people placed on buses to the convention center and sometimes they had to wait a long time because there was no room for them on the first departing buses,” Beaver said.
“That will be totally unacceptable in Denver,” Kennedy said, reacting to Beaver’s story. “LA and Boston couldn’t handle a sufficient flow of vehicles to their convention centers, but that won’t happen in Denver,” Kennedy insisted.
Handicapped accessible vans will supplement bus routes to avoid bottlenecks and some taxis will be modified to transport wheelchairs, Kennedy noted. Special-needs designed three-wheel bicycles will be brought in, too “I’m working with a medical supplier now to have wheelchairs available with the free bicycles so delegates can freely move about downtown to events,” Kennedy added.
Beaver said his group is also going to work with the DNC, the Denver Host Committee and other organizations to help delegates with disabilities navigate Denver during the convention. “We want to sponsor a downtown information booth and a website that disabled delegates can refer to,” Beaver said. “Plus, we will put together a special transportation-access guide that will last long after the convention and could be a useful tourist tool to attract future visitors with disabilities to Denver.”
“Because of the ADAPT movement, it’s only fitting that Denver hosts the most handicapped-accessible convention ever,” Kennedy said, “And I hope we surpass expectations.”