Friday, August 7, 2015

Who Says the Disabled Can’t Rock and Roll?



Last night [August 6], my wife Maggie and I joined thousands of James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt fans at Fenway Park, Boston’s celebrated baseball venue. 
Fenway Park

We didn’t know what to expect at the stadium as this was just the second time we were at the home of the Boston Red Sox. The first visit was about three years ago when I was on a business trip, and we attended a Boston-New York Yankees game at Fenway. The Sox beat the Yankees and a ball girl handed a foul ball to my wife.


Disabled Fans Rocked Too…..


James Taylor
The weather was perfect for a summer evening in Boston, and we were directed to seats close to the front, just on the right side of the stage. We were escorted to a section where ablebodied people, wheelchair riders and other disabled concert fans were seated together. This made the venue seem more natural and inclusive, as the disabled weren’t segregated.


As the evening progressed, the crowd began singing and dancing, as expected. In my section, disabled patrons were doing the same. A disabled gentleman, in a wheelchair next to me who had a tracheotomy, and used a ventilator to help him breathe, was singing along with James Taylor in a barely audible but deliberate voice.
Bonnie Raitt
A second man during the evening was dancing as  Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor went through their sets. The man looked as though he was a double amputee dancing on his prosthetic devices.

 
The beauty of the evening was that 35,000 people, as reported, were there to enjoy an evening of music and community with fellow fans, including the disabled and their families, aides and service dogs.

Rolling on the waves….


The last time I took a boat ride was about 15 years ago when we treated our children to Disney World in Florida. I was scared to death. The mid-sized Disney power boat would take us from our hotel room to any number of venues in Downtown Disney.  

Although entirely safe, sitting on a wheelchair as a boat rocks and rolls on water is a little unsettling - - especially when paralyzed and you can’t swim! I vowed never to do that again. So for the past decade I refused to go on cruises or boat rides - - until last week. I'm either wiser, or age got the best of me. You decide.


Maggie and I were strolling through Plymouth and enjoying a walk with my service dog Veronica, when we decided to check out the cruises and boat rides. Tours are offered for whale watching in September, daily 90-minute cruises to scenic Provincetown, on Cape Cod, and fishing excursions.   

There is also a two-hour riverboat ride on the Pilgrim Belle, which
tours Plymouth Harbor for 75 minutes.


Somehow, for some reason, I found myself rolling down the gang-plank onto the Pilgrim Belle, assisted by the Captain and a crew member, who were extremely careful as they  guided me safely down the steep ramp and onto the boat. I distinctly recall that I wasn’t blindfolded!

 
In the Captain's chair (not!), with crew member Veronica.
I sat on deck at the bow of the ship, Veronica and Maggie with me, and I felt liberated - -  a little less disabled; a little more normal.  It was pretty cool to feel a little less paralyzed, even for 75 minutes.

Intent of this Column

None of what I’ve written would be possible without the assistance of family, friends, medical staff, enlightened employers and business
My wife, Maggie, me, Veronica
people, inclusive business practices and responsible government officials and policies. 

Through my column I try to show what can be accomplished when accessibility standards and universal design are applied to create a barrier free environment for individuals who need them.   


Given the progress made by this country since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, disabled individuals must continue to be active and contributing members of society. 

Over the years I have found that the more the general population sees the disabled civilian and veteran populations active in society, the more familiar and comfortable they become with us.


Not all of society may like or tolerate the disabled, but some will, and the others will know that we are here to stay and continue to add value to our country and society.
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