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Disabled angry over lack of access at Polis inaugural

Pueblo Chieftain - 2/5/2019

Feb. 04--Disabled people could not participate in Gov. Jared Polis's inauguration on Jan. 8 because the event had no access for them at the state Capitol, according to the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition, which offered in December to help the governor's staff plan the event.

"I think there ought to be some kind of apology," said Kristen Castor, a Pueblo woman and advocate for the coalition. "I'm tired of it. The Americans With Disabilities Act is nearly 30-years old and we're still dealing with problems like this."

The ceremony on the steps of the state Capitol left the disabled far away on Lincoln Street. According to Julie Reiskin, executive director of the coalition, the disabled watched the event on big screen televisions without interpreters.

A spokesman for Polis didn't want to comment on the specifics of the complaints Monday but referred questions to the inaugural organizers.

In a detailed blog on the CCDC web site, Reiskin said that in mid-December, the group had offered to help the new governor's staff plan accessibility for the disabled. She said earlier governors had provided access.

"We shared specific things to think about to make this inclusive of our community," she wrote. "Our offer to help with accessibility was rebuffed and we were promised accessibility would be handled. I guess we were wrong to believe this representation from their staff."

Castor is well-known locally as a disabled advocate, participating in community groups and committees on issues affecting the disabled, such as ADA compliance. But she was also frustrated by what she called a chronic lack of awareness of the obstacles that face the disabled in attending political events.

When the local Women's March gathered at the front stone steps of the Pueblo County Courthouse this year, it was another example of no access for disabled, she said.

"When you put a podium some place where people in wheelchairs can't access it and participate, it's like putting out a sign that says 'No Blacks Allowed'," she said. "It's a thoughtless way of excluding people. I've talked to the county commissioners for years but nothing seems to change."

Reiskin made her unhappiness known in her blog on the inauguration.

"Over the west steps of the Capitol were large banners that said Colorado for All...I guess that meant Colorado for All except people with disabilities," she wrote.

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@RoperPeter

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