We Will Ride!! We Will Ride!! We Will Ride!!
Meet some folks who have spent time behind bars.
Larry Ruiz (1954-2012) had cerebral palsy and spent the first 18 years of his life warehoused in institutions for the physically and mentally disabled, or in nursing homes. It turned out he had a sharp mind! He was among the first to roll in front of a bus in protest of inaccessible transportation, and was arrested over 60 times. He lived independently for over 30 years after leaving the Heritage House nursing home in 1975.
Laura Hershey (1962-2010) was born with muscular dystrophy, but didn't let that keep her from being a mom, earning a college degree and making a profound impact with her writing and poetry. She was a poster child for the Jerry Lewis Telethon, but she grew to reject the image of the 'pitiful cripple' that she saw as the foundation of these campaigns.
The Gang of Nineteen and Wade Blank staged their first protest by surrounding two inaccessible buses at the corner of Colfax & Broadway in wheelchairs on July 5th & 6th, 1978. They stayed for 24 hours, even sleeping in the street, as you see here. Many more demonstrations would follow, in Denver and across the country, but there was a foundation of federal laws that had already been passed, and advocates who would no longer take 'No' or 'Wait' for an answer.
These people don't look like common criminals. In fact, they aren't common at all. But they, and many others have been arrested dozens of times for 'standing up' for a cause that serves us all. Most of them have done this sitting down, from their wheelchairs. Demanding ramps in place of stairs, lifts on buses, curb cuts on corners, and even accessible prison cells, they have made an inclusive society a practical reality in our world.
They have defied rules and police orders, they have occupied offices and government buildings, and they have held buses hostage on countless occasions. They have shown the world they were not pitiful cripples. They are strong, beautiful people. They are just like the rest of us. And they have won for the rest of us the right to ride public buses to go to our jobs, to school, to shop or to a ballgame, to go when and where we choose, even if we are in a wheelchair.
On display at the Central Library through June 30 - "To Boldly Go Where Everyone Else Has Been Before" - a collection of documents honoring the national leadership of Denver's disabled in the battle to secure the rights to public transportation, and to choose to live in our own homes, rather than institutions, in the event that we need assistance.
The display features original Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) federal government hearings, posters, magazine and newspaper articles from the past 40 years, and artifacts actually used in the movement. These are a tiny portion of the rich collections of the Denver Public Library, and available for your own research. Ask a librarian at 720-865-1363.
Join us for our Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Open House on Saturday, May 17th, 9-11 am at the Central Library, Level 4. Our Community Technology Center (CTC) invites you to a demonstration and a chance to ‘test drive’ our adjustable height tables, our Braille printer, video relay service, Intellikeys, ZoomText, Jaws and other adaptive equipment. Learn more about our services for persons with disabilities here. Call the CTC with questions at 720-865-1706. View invitation (PDF)
Visit our Children's Department at the Central Library for books about disabilities and the Sensory Storytime. Call Children's at 720-865-1306.
To learn more about persons with disabilities and the Disability Rights Movement:
To Ride the Public's Buses: the Fight That Built a Movement - edited by Mary Johnson & Barrett Shaw, with photos by Tom Olin
The Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to Confrontation - by Doris Zames Fleischer and Frieda Zames