With 1 in 5 voters across the country living with some from of disability--1 in 4 here in Oregon--we need candidates who understand the issues so they can advocate for the changes we need. Amanda has been fighting to humanize disability and ensure her fellow candidates--local, state, and federal--understand the obstacles the Disabled Community faces so they can place the priority on the issues that they deserve.
Amanda thought the best way to show other candidates the challenges we face was by showing them and giving advocates and activist the opportunity to talk to candidates face to face about the changes we need.
So she rented 7 wheelchairs, borrowed one, and took her personal old wheelchair, found 5 willing candidates and a couple staff members, and on Saturday December 8th, she made it happen!
When Amanda asked other candidates from around the Pacific Northwest to come, it was Albert Lee (OR CD-3), Jason Call (WA CD-6), Candace Avalos (Portland City Council), Michael Burleson (frm Portland Mayor), Robin Castro (frm. Portland City Commissioner) who answered the call!
These candidates were given a personal tour of Portland so they could really understand what made traveling around, shopping, and living in a wheelchair so challenging.
On that cold and rainy December morning, candidates relinquished the use of their legs and for 5 hours, got a first hand experience of some of the challenges the disabled in Portland face.
Everything they did, and everywhere they went, they were going to be bound to their wheelchairs, like millions of people across our country are on a daily basis.
Candidates were given a map and one of our teen volunteers then sent out to accomplish their tasks, make their trains, and get to lunch.
They thought it was going to be easy... They had two hours to make the couple stops, take the bus, max, and street car over to lunch...
Walking, it would've taken them about an hour...
Hour and a half depending on what buses or trains they caught...
Quickly, they started having problems. Navigating with a paper map or phone was not easy in the rain when your hands are being used as your mode of transportation.
Within a couple blocks they were wet, starting to get sore, and starting to see some of the many challenges facing those with mobility issues.
While able-bodies people may look around and see wheelchair ramps, handicap stalls, handicap parking, and ramps, they are few and far between, improperly installed, or haven't been properly maintained
A puddle is unavoidable in a wheelchair and the way the water pools at the bottom of sidewalk cutouts erodes the pavement leaving large bumps and potholes that catch wheels and can flip wheelchairs.
Albert realized how hazardous it could be when he got his wheels stuck in a pothole he couldn't see in the middle of the puddle that accumulated at the bottom of this sidewalk cutout.
They saw shopping was a struggle when you can't push a shopping cart and there aren't enough electric carts, items are placed way out of reach, and aisles are too narrow.
Stores aren't designed for those with disabilities to ever shop there. We need to update the ADA and make all areas of our country accessible to those with disabilities by implementing Universal Design.
Sidewalks are too narrow or poorly maintained turning them into hazards that require all our attention to navigate properly or risk our safety. Hole or raised pieces of sidewalk can turn into major safety hazards.
If we attempt to travel with multiple wheelchairs, we can't go side by side. Instead it turns into a game of Leap Frog or Follow the Leader.
Resources for the disabled are few and far between and often those limited resources are being used by those who don't need them making it unavailable for those who require it.
Most people prefer using the larger, handicap stall--whether they need it or not--yet on average there is only 1 handicap stall for every 4 regular stalls. If we're lucky. Many places still do not even have a wheelchair accessible bathroom. Even if there is a handicap stall, about half of them have been improperly installed rendering them practically unusable because you can't get the wheelchair in. Jason Call found that out the hard way...
It's hard to have more than two wheelchairs on the bus or MAX--as candidates quickly discovered. Wheelchairs are restricted to specific parts and if those are full then we're out of luck. Often times, buses won't even stop for wheelchairs if they are the only one at the stop. It's even harder for those who are visually impaired.
We need to make public transportation more accessible, move to stair-free stops, ensure all stops are wheelchair accessible. put in resources at all stops for the visually impaired, increase drivers/conductors training for interactions with the disabled community, and make public transportation free.
None of the candidates were ready for the physical and emotional toll this tour would take. Soon they were sore, tired, and having to rely on their teenage guides for help. It made them feel vulnerable.
Albert Lee said he noticed people refused to look him in the eye when they passed by or when he was on public transportation. He noticed how that one simple change--being in a wheelchair--change how people interacted with him.
They started to understand...
Cold, wet, and sore, it took over an hour and a half for them to make it NW 23rd to see how inaccessible stores were.
But they were at their breaking point. So we had the disabled activists abandon the route and head straight to lunch and debriefing.
They made it about half way...
By the time everyone made it to the Lucky Lab, they were ready for lunch, drinks, and a bit of conversation.
The most common thing that candidates said:
"This was so much harder than I ever thought it would be"
"A life-changing experience"
But we weren't done!
Candidates got a brief history on disability rights. From Ugly Laws to Eugenics, our country has a dark history on this issue that still plagues our society today.
In all the fights for civil and human rights over the years, the fight for disability rights have been left behind. It's time we address the issue, right the wrongs of our past, and ensure that all of us have a basic quality of life.
The fight for disability rights is a fight for human rights. We need to do more to ensure that all people have a place and are accepted in our society. That starts with ensuring:
Living on $750/month, Amanda doesn't own a car and lives in a small apartment. We planned on taking the MAX over to pick up the wheelchairs then Uber them over to Amanda's apartment for storage...
But Uber had no wheelchair vans in the entire city...
So with the help of Chase & an amazing Uber driver we crammed 5 wheelchairs in 1 sedan. And with the help of one of our houseless residents, Amanda--in her own wheelchair--was able to get the last 2 rented chairs back to her apartment.
Without a lot of help, we never would have made this happen! From transporting wheelchair to mapping out the route to leading a groups, none of this would've been possible without the help of a lot of amazing people
There's nothing like 10 people and 11 wheelchair boarding the Max! It was probably a first for our city but probably won't be the last!
Without the participation of our amazing candidates and activists, this event would never have happened. As a result of its success, we were able to make real change including getting over 40 candidates to adopt our disability rights platform--including Bernie Sanders--and gain media attention for the cause.
We're making disability rights a real issue in the 2020 election!
The Big Us Includes All Of Us!