Text and Ideas: A blog about ideas and innovations in journalism
Nick R. Martin

Have an idea?
E-mail Nick

Posts by month
February 2008 January 2008 December 2007 November 2007
Full list

Other sites
McGuire on Media
Mixed Media
Idea Lab
Publishing 2.0

RSS Feed
Access to Dem convention stymies disabled
July 10, 2007

By Nick Martin
Denver Post Staff Writer

Vivian Stovall remembers the last time she was left in the dark by the Democratic Party.

She was stranded one night outside the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, waiting for some kind of ride that could accommodate her and her wheelchair.

Publication info
This story originally ran July 10, 2007 in the Denver Post. To view photos published with the story, go to www.denverpost.com.

For hours, she watched thousands of able-bodied conventiongoers hop on buses to be whisked back to their hotels.

"They would pack the buses, and you would be left sitting there," Stovall said.

Now, Stovall and other Colorado advocates for the disabled say they are once again being left in the dark as Democrats plan for next year's national convention in Denver.

"We can't get anyone to talk to us. That's what's so frustrating," said Julie Reiskin, executive director of the nonprofit Colorado Cross-Disability Association.

Advocates for the disabled say they have tried to reach out to convention organizers for the past six months with concerns about access to buses, taxis, hotels and the convention itself.

They say they have received little response.

"We kind of hear people say it's going to be taken care of," Reiskin said. "Well, not to be rude, but we've heard this in other places and other times."

Communication lacking

Convention planners say it's too early to be locking down the details.

The convention is more than a year away - August 2008 - and some things won't be planned until the beginning of next year, said Becky Ogle, the senior disability adviser for the Democratic National Committee.

Ogle said she has already begun contacting those with disabilities in Colorado to tell them she'll be looking for input.

Still, Ogle said she and other convention planners may not have been doing the best job communicating with Coloradans to explain the process.

"I'm going to look into the communication factor," she said on Monday.

"We need to do a better job with that."

Ogle also said she understands the frustration and suspicion among some in the disabled community because of its history of being excluded from events of all kinds.

At the Boston convention in 2004, Ogle said, there had been some access problems at the Fleet Center.

Reiskin said that's why it's so important to begin planning now.

"It's a big job, and somebody needs to get on this now," she said.

"Our one chance"

Reiskin first e-mailed convention organizers in mid-January, days after it was announced that Denver had won the convention.

"This is our one chance to get it right," Reiskin wrote to state Democratic Party chairwoman Pat Waak in a Jan. 16 e-mail.

Waak replied that same day, referring her to then-Denver City Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth, who in turn referred her to the host committee's director of operations, Paul Lhevine.

"I will have Paul contact you," Wedgeworth wrote.

That was Jan. 17. Reiskin says she still has not heard from Lhevine or anyone with specifics.

A spokeswoman with the host committee did not return a call for comment.

Another concern raised by those with disabilities is the number of delegates who will represent Colorado at the national convention.

The state Democratic Party tries at the convention to mirror the population of Colorado in terms of minority groups, Waak said.

Some advocates point out, however, the party is planning to send only two people with disabilities to the convention out of about 70 delegates.

That's in sharp contrast to the 16 percent of Coloradans who were counted as having "disability status" by the 2000 U.S. census, said Donald Wubben, a Fort Collins man who filed a complaint with the national party over the delegate plan.

Wubben said, with the state's growth, the population with disabilities could now be as high as 20 percent or 25 percent.

The means the delegate plan "is not representative of Democratic voters in Colorado," Wubben said.

Wubben's complaint was dismissed because he did not file it in the proper way, he said.

Waak pointed out that delegates are elected, like many other political positions.

"People from whichever of these diverse categories who have been working very hard have a much better chance at being elected than someone who just walks in off the street and says, 'I want to be a delegate,"' Waak said.

"So if you're going to run, it doesn't matter if you're African- American, Hispanic, Anglo or disabled," she said.

Powered by Movable Type and my own skills | E-mail login | Copyright 2008