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Denver dance theater installs chair lift after councilman who uses wheelchair was unable to access stage

Denver city councilman Chris Hinds
Posted at 3:35 PM, May 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-02 17:35:59-04

DENVER — A dance theater in Denver has installed a chair lift to access the stage after a Denver city councilman, who uses a wheelchair, was unable to access the stage ahead of a debate in February.

On Feb. 13, District 10 Councilman Chris Hinds arrived at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (CPRD) Performing Arts Complex in Five Points for a Denver City Council debate. He was then told there wasn't a ramp or lift to get him onto the stage.

Hinds told Denver7 he already felt conflicted about participating in the debate because it was happening at the same time as a city council meeting, and he didn’t want to be perceived as shirking his elected duties for the sake of campaigning. But because he participated in the Denver Fair Elections Fund and had accepted money for his campaign, he had to take part.

Denver city councilman Chris Hinds


Denver councilman who uses wheelchair had to hoist himself onto debate stage

Meghan Lopez - Denver7
7:21 PM, Feb 16, 2023

“If I do not attend the debate, then I'm required to give back all of the Fair Elections Fund money, which is $125,000 for me. So that would basically end my viability as a candidate,” Hinds said.

Hinds, who said he is close to 200 pounds and the chair is an additional 400 pounds, said the initial idea to lift him onto the stage in the chair was "crazy." The next idea was to have Hinds hoist himself up onto the stage and then to lift the wheelchair up separately. Ultimately, event organizers decided the best idea was to move the debate onto the floor in front of the stage so Hinds could participate.

Denver city councilman who uses wheelchair had to hoist himself onto debate stage

In a statement from February, the CPRD said it did not receive "requests for additional or enhanced accommodations" prior to the debate. Malik Robinson, executive director of the theater, said they are "deeply involved in plans to ensure full accessibility" in the near future.

On Tuesday afternoon, those plans were released in an email update from the dance theater from Robinson.

Robinson said CPRD installed a backstage chair lift to access the stage.

In addition, he said the theater reviewed and updated its website for greater accessibility and renovated its online ticketing information to highlight seating that is wheelchair accessible.

Robinson said he assembled a task force to review accessibility needs in the building and examine the documents for its upcoming new-build Capital Campaign project.

The task force includes a physical therapist and community transition specialist and patient education assistant from Craig Hospital, a performer and accessibility consultant who uses a wheelchair, the director of community engagement at Rocky Mountain Partnership, co-executive director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, and the CPRD operations director.

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