Rally for Easy Access for All in Lexington
By Bruce Burris
A couple of years ago the British punk group Heavy Load recorded an anthem called â€œStay Up Late,â€ that song, about the lack of late night social opportunities for people with disabilities in Great Britain has helped energize and inspire an international movement based on the idea that those of us considered to have disabilities ought to be able to â€¦ stay up late. The members of Heavy Load know all about it, three of their members have disabilities and they are getting real tired of losing much of their audience at 10pm when an almost nationwide residential facility staff- shift change occurs.
Though things are different in the US, the problems are just as pronounced. Transportation and basic accessibility problems with sidewalks, entrances to businesses and uncomfortable and generally inaccessible interior spaces and bathrooms are consistently problematic issues which prevent many adults from enjoying the social opportunities many of us take for granted.
Some months ago Sandy Cowan contacted Latitudeâ€™s Project Easy Access Lexington to announce that much like our friends â€˜Heavy Loadâ€™ â€” she was ready to lead us in bringing attention to the need for late night supports for people with disabilities in Lexington.
Sandy says, â€œI was born in Louisville in 1949, nothing unusual about the birth but when I was three months old I became very ill. It took the doctors awhile before they could put a name to what I had. I was diagnosed as having Cerebral Palsy. Iâ€™m in a wheelchair because I have no balance to be able to walk, my CP affects my movements of all limbs, and my speech to a point. I have my BA in Social Work from the University of Kentucky. I have been married and have a daughter and am a grandmother.
When Sandy mentions that a lot of people are affected by accessibility issues, she raises an excellent point.
There are some 40,000 people considered to have a disability in Fayette County and while many are able to get out and enjoy an active social life on their own without public supports, many are simply not. This ought to be a real concern to the Lexington business community because simply putâ€”businesses are losing money when potential customers do not have access past a certain hour.
Morry Latour is the current chairperson of LFUCGâ€™s, Commission for Citizens with Disabilities. Under Morryâ€™s leadership transportation issues have really moved to the forefront and while people with disabilities are very much under-served Morry points out that LexTran is gradually beginning to make improvements to their para-transit and Wheels programs.
Morry says â€œLexTran has been stepping up and continually improving the para-transit program. I think LexTran is willing to work with people, particularly
groups of people, since itâ€™s important to demonstrate demand. The broader issue is in getting total community involvement and making sure that people with disabilities have the opportunity to go to concerts, restaurants, and the various social opportunities many of us take for granted. Some people with disabilities are inhibited from participating in a full range of social activities due to accessibility issues and generally in not feeling welcome. We seem to be making this effort for visitors to Lexington for the WEG Games and I think we need the same sort of welcoming efforts for our own citizensâ€.
For, college student, Melissa Amaral, the primary issue remains one of transportation, though in a followup conversation Melissa mentioned that this was natural as she rarely has been able to get to a place in which she could socialize. She expressed concern about what a restaurant or club experience might be like once she did get inside. Would the bar be too high to place an order? Would she be able to navigate through a packed a dance floor and find a bathroom and would that bathroom really be accessible? Et cetera.
Melissa says, â€œI am a student at UK and I am disabled. I have not always been disabled. In fact, I used to drive and could go where I wanted to go when I wanted to. Much control is taken away from me now that I have to rely on a transportation system that stops running too early. I used to drive to the college library and stay as late as I needed. Not only is it frustrating that I am unable to do this, but it is unfair and discriminating.â€
Downtown Lexington is changing for the positive and it really is time that we invited everyone to the party. Highlighted here are only a few of the issues that some disabled tax-paying citizens endure when trying to create a social life in Lexington. It is our responsibility as a community to accommodate everyone and this can be accomplished if we understand that we have a stake in creating a Lexington that works for all people.
Stay Out Late! Rally
Do you have a disability?
Do you depend on public transportation?
Do you want to â€¦ Stay Out Late?
When: Monday August 3rd, 11am- 1pm
Where: Triangle Park (downtown Lexington, intersection N. Broadway and Main St.)
What: A very positive, fun, rally to bring attention to the need for late night transportation for people considered to have disabilities!
11am - 12:15pm: RALLY bring colorful posters, noise makers etc. and help get our message out to the world
12:15 - 12:45: Speakers, PUSH (Cross-country US Cycle Team), http://www.pushamerica.org/events/JOH
Prizes for most creative posters and banners.