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Handicapped treated like second class citizens at Fair concert

POSTED August 25, 2009 10:12 p.m.
Dear Editor,
I had the pleasure of going to see Huey Lewis and the News at the Stanislaus County Fair a couple of weeks ago. The concert was great, but the seating they had for handicap individuals was horrible. I was in a wheelchair due to a foot injury and while I’m out of it now, there are others that aren’t and they needed those seats. We counted a total of 16 seats in the entire area that was designated for handicap only. I didn’t use one of the seats, but did sit in the general area and talked with several of the people there.
I heard the same story over and over about how horrible the seating was. I even called the fairgrounds office to ask for more seats only to be told to look for the security staff in yellow shirts, that she couldn’t help me. We arrived two and half hours early to get a seat, but my wheelchair wasn’t able to get to most of the seats, only near the handicap area.
There was a lady with a missing leg that had to stand on her crutches the entire time. I offered her my wheelchair and she politely refused. There was an older man with a cane and oxygen, he too had to stand for quite a while. He finally found a seat in another area. I could go on with the list, but you get the idea.
The healthy people were crowding the area because there were several rows that were roped off for “Special Access” passes directly in front of the handicapped seating. They knew that right before the concert started, those rows would be opened to the public if they weren’t filled. Instead of allowing the people that very obviously needed to sit, the Fair security staff in those yellow shirts opened those rows up and allowed the people that they had been telling to move away to sit there. They even allowed this very loud and verbally abusive man to have one of those prime seats while the lady with one leg stood.
The strong and young ones got to the seats first and left the older people with missing limbs, on oxygen, on canes or crutches standing. My husband sat on the ground behind my wheelchair during the entire concert because there was a man that reeked of beer and body odor leaning on my wheelchair and drinking beer over my head. My husband had found a seat with our friends in another place, but I called him on his cell phone to ask him to please come and help me. The security staff did nothing when I asked them twice to make more seating for the people that truly needed it and to please get the man that was spilling beer on my head to stop using my wheelchair as a leaning post and move away from me. I still have bruises on my leg from people kicking me as they tried to walk over my leg that was obviously bandaged.
Being in a wheelchair for even a very short amount of time gave me a whole new perspective on things. I noticed that adults won’t look at you. They turn their heads away like you don’t exist. However, children smile at you, make eye contact and even ask you questions. One sweet little boy asked me if I had an “owie” on my foot and I said, “Yes, but that it would be better soon.” His mother grabbed him by the arm and whisked him away telling him not to talk to “that woman, we don’t know what she has.” I has horrified by her response. I’m pretty sure an injured foot isn’t contagious.
So, the next time you see someone in a wheelchair, just smile at them and ask them how their day is going. Maybe tell them how nice their hair looks or what a nice shirt they have on. Don’t act like they don’t exist. Maybe you could even say God bless you and keep you safe.
— Reverend Gaylene Cornell

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