Wounded Warriors Drops Ball on Access

Don’t get me wrong, I think the Wounded Warriors Project does some great work; which is why I was extremely dismayed when I learned that their upcoming event at Whitefish Ski Resort will not be accessible. It’s not that the resort itself is inaccessible; in fact according to disability advocate Kimberley Barreda, “Dan Graves, the Whitefish Mountain CFO is very open to a full time adapted skiing program, and the resort has been very good at making things more accessible.”

The access problems actually lie in some of the event venues — the local pubs and eateries where the group gathers for after-ski fun. And as anyone who has ever donned a pair of skis knows, after-ski activities are an essential part of any ski day. It-s what every skier wants — a chance to socialize and exchange the highs and lows of the day. And I would expect this is even more important if it’s the first time you’ve ever tried adapted skiing.

For example, volunteer mentor Domonic Corradin is looking forward to returning to Whitefish to participate in the program again this February; but he’s hoping that he’ll be able to get into the party at Bierstube this year, so he can have a beer with the guys after a day of hucking the summit. Says Mr. Corradin, “Last year I couldn’t use the restroom with my wheelchair, so unless I wanted to pee in the snow, the party was not an option for me.” Ms. Barreda confirms this and adds “The bathroom doors at Bierstube don’t even close if a wheelchair is in the stall, so we just skipped the party and went back to the hotel and got something to eat.”  Mr. Corradin’s companion was equally disappointed. “Sadly I had to pass on what looked like a really fun event because it wasn’t accessible to Domonic,” she says.

But Bierstube isn’t the only non-accessible venue. According to a local source, Cafe Kandahar is just as bad and they’re on this after-ski venue list for the third year in a row. Basically you have to be carried in, and they don’t even have an accessible bathroom.

Think about it for a minute. You’re a wounded veteran and you just had an exhilarating first day on the slopes. You never imagined you could ski, but you did it, and now you have a greater sense of independence. And then you have to be carried in to a restaurant. What kind of a mixed message does it send?  You can be independent, but only on our terms?

And as I’m sure most of you already know, mental healing is just as important as physical healing after any traumatic injury. Let’s give these wounded heroes a chance to fully heal, by making this event inclusive — for everyone, not just the majority of the group. In this day and age it’s entirely possible..

Again, I think the Wounded Warriors Project is doing an awesome job of introducing folks to adapted sports and adventure activities. At this particular event they’re giving the vets three days of skiing with adaptive equipment, and tons of fun after-ski events. I fully realize it’s not their job to make places accessible, but it would be nice if they could choose fully accessible venues for their after-ski events. And you never know, if a few venues missed out on large bookings because they weren’t accessible, it might encourage them to make the needed access upgrades. After all, money talks — whether it walks in or rolls in.

Seriously, don’t we owe our wounded veterans a little more than that? Think about it. Hopefully the planners for the 2013 event will make some positive changes.

 

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