IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Lack of wheelchair access forces City Council member to climb onto debate stage

Chris Hinds said he was "disappointed and disheartened after the public humiliation" he endured because the location did not have wheelchair accommodations.

Denver City Council member Chris Hinds said he was humiliated when he had to get out of his wheelchair and attempt to crawl onto a stage before a debate because the venue did not have proper accessibility.

"I am incredibly disappointed and disheartened after the public humiliation I endured at Monday’s District 10 City Council Debate," he said in a Twitter statement.

The debate was held at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance school in Denver. Photos posted on social media showed Hinds sitting on the edge of the stage as he tried to make his way to the debate area.

"The lack of wheelchair accessibility on the stage at the debate culminated in an extremely uncomfortable outcome: I had to climb out of my wheelchair and attempt to crawl onto the stage in front of a crowd," he wrote.

The debate was eventually moved to the floor so Hinds could participate.

Paul D. López, with the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s Office, said he regrets what happened.

"No one should have that experience, and I have apologized to Councilman Hinds personally," he said in a statement. "Our office continues to communicate with all debate sponsors to ensure that they can fulfill ADA requirements and other needs."

The office said that sponsors of the debate coordinated with candidates for any planning, format and logistics. In order to be sanctioned, the sponsors filled out an application stating that they meet basic requirements including Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility.

Cleo Parker Robinson Dance school submitted the sponsor application and was approved, López said.

The school's executive director, Malik Robinson, apologized to Hinds, saying in an emailed statement that the incident "was an important and visceral reminder that accessibility, in many forms, is critical for all members of our community."

"Cleo Parker Robinson Dance is a community hub, and we strive to meet many areas of inclusion. Our main stage access is one area which does not fully meet inclusionary access," he said.

The school said it has plans to expand and renovate the facility.

Hinds told NBC affiliate KUSA of Denver that part of the reason he decided to climb out of his wheelchair was the pressure to do the debate. He wrote on Twitter that he was told that if he did not participate, he would need to forfeit his $125,000 in Fair Election Fund money.

The councilman said he felt like he had to choose "to either preserve the campaign's viability or his dignity."

At the very least, Hinds said, he hopes the incident serves as a reminder that ADA accessibility is still an issue. "Our democracy is stronger when it represents everyone, and this is another example why we need disability representation," he said in his statement.