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Tragic: Delegate calls out treatment of disabled people at DNC

Seattle resident Vivian Queija is speaking out about the DNC's worrisome practices against disabled individuals. (KIRO Radio)

Organizers of the Democratic National Convention made a concerted effort to highlight and give a voice to people with disabilities on stage at the 2016 convention. But a Seattle delegate told KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz that disabled individuals aren’t being treated with respect behind the scenes.

Vivian Queija, a Seattle resident, and at-large Bernie delegate said she is speaking out because of multiple worrisome occurrences at the convention, including a lack of good ADA seating.

“We have an area in our delegation seating that is ADA,” she said. “However, we are having delegates from Louisiana, Alabama, Oregon — all over — come and be seated in that area because there just isn’t good ADA seating in their own delegation or nearby.”

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But it’s not all about seating. Queija walks with a cane because of a bad knee and hip problem. She says her frustrations have been minor compared to others, such as an Oregon delegate named Niko.

“His disability is pretty involved,” she said. “So he needs one of the chairs that is very big that will recline. He was contacted by the DNC, and they (asked), ‘Would you please be willing to come out on stage as a person with a disability?’ They wanted to have him showcased on the stage. He said sure. They did not send a wheelchair accessible bus for him!

“I mean, really? That’s like … wait a minute, we are about being the party of inclusion. We want you to be on stage so you’re visible in front of the cameras, but that’s how we actually treat our ADA people. OK. I think that’s like ouch all the way around.”

Another female delegate who can only walk short distances but also recently had shoulder surgery was provided a non-battery operated wheelchair, she said. Though DNC officials told the woman that the situation would be taken care of, but it didn’t happen expeditiously.

“We waited all day Monday. She came in again and Tuesday it wasn’t there,” she said. “And she just broke down in tears out of pain and out of panic in the heat.”

There were 400 delegates with disabilities at this year’s DNC, a 35 percent increase from 2012. Plenty of disabled non-delegates have been a part of the event, too.

Rantz asked Queija if she was making claims that disabled individuals were being exploited.

“Well, I would say in Niko’s case, we are seeing all these people with disabilities up there on stage but we’re seeing (a different) reality in our delegation because that little pit where they put these people from the all other states is really sad,” she said.

Queija, who said she has contacted the DNC about her complaints, added that people in wheelchairs from other delegations have not been given access by the DNC to the proper transportation and have been forced to be dropped off by the buses “a couple football fields” away. Once the person gets to the curb, Queija says, there is no ramp accessibility.

“I mean it was tragic,” she said. “The perimeter fence was put three feet covering up the wheelchair access. We were like, ‘Come on guys.’ They wouldn’t even help the man from Colorado get his wheelchair up over the curb. Our Washington delegates were like, well, somebody go help this poor man.”

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