Denver councilman with wheelchair forced to lift himself onto debate stage: ‘Humiliating experience’

A partially paralyzed Denver city councilman was forced to lift himself out of his wheelchair and onto a debate stage – sparking a call for equal access after video of the moment spread in the news and on social media.

Denver City Council member Chris Hinds, a Democrat who is paralyzed from the chest down, was seen in the video hoisting himself onto the stage floor at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre because the stage did not have wheelchair access.

While the theater later apologized, Hinds said he was humiliated by the experience, which happened Monday in front of dozens of onlookers.

Hinds said in a statement Wednesday that he was ‘incredibly disappointed and disheartened’ by the lack of wheelchair access for the City Council debate.

‘The unfortunate and humiliating experience I had has elevated the conversation about accessibility to the national stage,’ he said in another statement Friday.

Hinds told USA Today that debate organizers had initially suggested lifting him onto the stage, but he said he responded that his wheelchair weighs 400 pounds alone and that he weighs ‘almost another 200.’

‘And they said, ‘All right, well how about you get out of the wheelchair and we’ll just lift the chair up?” Hinds recalled. ‘They gave me a chair that I could cling on to so I’m not just laying on stage.’

‘I felt like a circus monkey,’ he said. ‘Just there on display for everyone to do whatever.’

Hinds, who is running for reelection, said the organizers eventually decided to have the debate in front of the stage.

He posted a campaign video about the incident on Saturday.

‘You may have seen me in the news recently for an incident that brought accessibility to the national stage,’ he said in the video. ‘Democracy should be representative of all the people. … Everyone deserves access to housing, transportation and representation.’

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