It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Fun*Run Time

It's ALREADY that time of year again: The ADAPT Fun*Run for Disability Rights is April 22nd 2012. Maryland's fundraising goal is $8,000 this year. Yes, that's right, $8,000

Donate $1! Donate $10! Donate $100! Donate $1,000! JUST DONATE so we can FREE OUR PEOPLE! I thank you very much for your support!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Towson University: EPIC FAIL

I would LOVE to write a post for you about how great the documentary Shooting Beauty is (it is. REALLY) but I can't. I can't because I'm tired of being the ambassador for all of cripdom. I'm tired of people who think things aren't their problem. I'm tired of people who are so consumed by the dominant culture that they don't even know what they don't know. Or worse, don't care.

Here's the story:

I don't know if I saw the poster for Shooting Beauty in the hall first, or read Ellen's post about it first. It doesn't matter, the 2 were very close together, and I went OMG! THEY. ARE. SHOWING. THAT. HERE! They never show things like that here. And then we had "snoverkill" and school was closed. And I was sad. What were the chances that they could get the director to fly in from wherever he is on another date? But they did. Yesterday. And I was like SUPER EXCITED. And like I said, the movie was GREAT. But the point of the movie, the mission of the movie was completely lost. And I am ANGRY.

The screening on both days was scheduled to take place in an auditorium in a building that I've never been in, because I don't take classes in those departments, but that I know is rather old. I had a feeling I knew what the auditorium looked like though. I had a feeling it looked like one of the 2 big lecture rooms in the building I do hang out in: legal, but not accessible.

I was right. The doorway to enter the auditorium in the bottom was up a nicely put together ramp, but then you get in there and there isn't really an option for wheelers to sit in the front. The auditorium was set up with very steep stairs, not the easiest railings to hold, and space, I guess, for wheelchairs to sit all the way up in the back. I'm preaching to the choir here, but I would like to draw your attention to the parallel between sitting in the back of the auditorium and sitting in the back of the bus. UNCOOL TOWSON UNIVERSITY. TOTALLY UNCOOL.

I didn't have my chair with me yesterday, it was a crutches and AFOs day due to our snoverkill, so I took a seat in the 4th or 5th row up on the aisle. Far enough up that I wouldn't be straining my neck to be able to see, but low enough down not to be so bad for the whole crutches/bad railing thing. I sat and I fumed. I knew this was going to happen, I contemplated emailing 2 people from disability support services (DSS) in advance to have them "investigate" (not much of an investigation if I could clearly describe the setting having never been there) but decided not to. I'm tired of being the "ambassador for disability" at this school and I just didn't feel like it.

Not too much later the DSS staff started trickling in. First in the door was the person in charge of handling all of the physical access issues on campus. I motioned for her to come up. I'm sure I had the "I'm trying to contain myself from doing physical harm to you people" dagger look in my eyes. To say I had the "I'm displeased" tone in my voice is a severe understatement. Her answer to my question of why this wasn't held in an accessible location was that she just found out about this today. REALLY??? The poster was up for about 3 weeks and there were several email announcements. That answer: FAIL. Next in walked in both the director and associate director of DSS together. I motioned for them to come over, but I think they just thought I was waiving.

I wanted to bring this issue up publicly in front of the whole crowd, but I wasn't sure how to do it. The director was there remember, and I didn't want it to seem in anyway that I was putting him into an awkward situation. This had nothing to do with him. I (and so did he) thought we were going to have a formal Q&A after the screening and I was going to say how great it was (it is) and then ask who was in charge of setting this up from school. However, the dude walked right into it. He got up to introduce the film and then motioned to a set of 4 stairs to go up behind the curtain on the stage afterwards to look at some of the photographs.

I raised my hand but it was very clear he wasn't going to make eye contact, so in my "I am so much more then displeased" voice, I just cut him off. "I have a question. Is there anyway to get back there without having to go up a flight of stairs?"
"No. No there isn't. There used to be. There used to be a lift and I don't know why they took it out, but they took it out... This was the only room we could get for tonight."
After the movie when I got to the director & associate director of DSS their answer was
"We just found out about this and had nothing to do with the planning of it."
FAIL. EPIC FAIL. You're DSS. That answer doesn't fly with me.

I know this was not the only place that they could get because it was advertised as this for both dates. Do you want to know the real reason this screening was held in a completely inaccessible location? The real reason is because the department hosting the event is housed in this building and it was easy. They didn't even try. I know because I know where there is a fantastic accessible setting on campus and I know that had either they contacted DSS or had DSS had a brain, DSS has the power to get any event on campus moved for accessibility purposes. If there was something going on in that space last night, they could have easily made them take the crappy auditorium.

Not only am I angry, I am also sad. I am sad that we did not have a formal Q&A afterwards. I am sad that most of the people left right after the lights came on and didn't even go look at the photographs.

I am sad that we were not able to have the same enlightening experience as Ellen did. I am sad that when Cheryl (she's blond, uses a powerchair, & has CP. Creepy...) was having a bad day and was crying because she was in her late 20s and wanted to settle down and get married, 2 girls sitting behind me snickered. Someone who is nonverbal wants to get married. That's funny? An old guy in a chair who likes to smoke, [right] that's apparently something to snicker at too. They should go to ADAPT... There were plenty of places to laugh, EJ's a trip, but there is a HUGE difference between laughing and snickering.

So I am sad that we missed a gigantic learning opportunity, and I am sad that the hosting department didn't value the film enough to hold it in a larger accessible facility. It was just like in the film. No galleries wanted to host the exhibit because they thought no one would come, and then HUNDREDS came. This screening was held in some rinky dink out of the way auditorium and then so many people came that there were quite a few people sitting in the aisles. FAIL EMF department. EPIC FAIL.

While we're at it, lets not forget that the photo exhibit wasn't even set at normal standing people's eye height, it was set at basketball player's eye height. Remember I was standing yesterday and I still had to strain my neck. Why not just ignore the director's request to hang the photos at chair user height. You might as well fail at everything...


Anonymous said...

I attended TSU back when it was TSC -- before ADA and any hope of DSS. Back then they advertised themselves as handicapped accessible. Until a group of disabled students had a test for the administrators. The admins were put in wheelchairs or blindfolded, and given basic tasks. Go to the library. Go to the second floor of Linthicum. Go to the residential cafeteria (not in the Student Union at that time). TSC stopped advertising as handicapped accessible after that.

I attended a conference at another university where attendees were put up in the one designated handicapped accessible dorm. Yes, it had an elevator inside, but there were 6 steps to reach the front door to get to that elevator.

oliviaobineme said...

Hello Cheryl,

My name is Olivia Obineme. I am a reporter for The Towerlight. I am working on a story concerning the screening event of "Shooting Beauty." I have read your blog and notice that you have very strong feelings about how the the film was screened and the accessibility on campus. I would like to share your story. I will be sending you an email of some questions I have for you and I would appreciate it if you could answer them for me. I am also working on a video for this story and would love to film the interview with you. My deadline is Saturday night, so if you could do it as soon as possible but at your convenience. Feel free to contact me @ 443-653-6644, or'm on Facebook as well.

Thank you so much.

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