Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Capabilities to the Rescue: Day 3 at the DNC

9:00 a.m.
We feel the energy building today, already this early in the day. More traffic, more people, more buzz. Folks stream past us on Stout St., stop and inquire, take cards, buy some products. There are many who are starting to worry a bit about the big Thursday night speech at Invesco Field, otherwise, called Mile High Stadium to those of us who remember its original name. We have a number of scooter rentals and transport wheelchair rentals. A transport wheelchair weighs less and is easier to push through crowds. You cannot actually self-propel in a transport chair, so it is only a good solution if you have someone with you to push. Under those circumstances, however, it is ideal if you are on your way to Invesco tomorrow since we hear there are still a few gaps in the transportation process for those with disabilities.

11:30 a.m.
We get a call that a volunteer in from Gallaudet University, a university founded by and for those with hearing impairments, is in trouble at the Convention Center. His power wheelchair won’t move after a wild taxi ride. He has no way to travel the two blocks to our mobile station, so Dave packs up some tools and goes to him. He troubleshoots as much as he can, but decides he needs to work on the chair in a serious way. He helps push the young man to our site on Stout St. A companion is with him who helps translate through sign language. Thank goodness we brought our loaner power wheelchair! He transfers into ours and goes onto a full day of volunteering at the Pepsi Center.
Dave brings his talents, first at assessing the problem and quickly fixing it. Even without his workshop of tools, he gets to the root of the matter and within an hour has Andrew’s chair as good as new. Andrew cannot come back, though, until Thursday morning. His chair becomes a curiosity for passersby as it has the overall look of a manual wheelchair with all the power of a power chair. Dave explains how this type of wheelchair works to those who stop and inquire throughout the afternoon.

3:00 p.m.
I walk along the 16th St. Mall, handing out our cards and looking for photo ops. I have seen a few famous faces, mostly journalists, in these days so far. I am eager for a sighting of someone really famous. I hear George Clooney and Oprah are in town! What I come upon instead is the hilarious moment I captured in this video clip. A belly dancer emerges from the crowd to present herself to the stand of riot police standing guard. She promises them a moment they won’t forget. See how each policeman looks somewhere else! Suddenly confronted with something that could be a diversionary tactic, and noting quickly just how many of us, including a TV camera, turn on this funny scene, the police officers are a bit perplexed on how to manage the situation. They most surely enjoy seeing this beautiful woman wiggling in front of them, yet they cannot appear distracted, but they are distracted in their efforts to appear unmoved by all this. A couple of them smile at the irony of it all. A truly terrific scene and one of so many where the police, all ready for the worst, actually joined in with the crowds in a friendly and unassuming way.

5:30 p.m
As we pack up this evening, I am already feeling a bit melancholy knowing that Thursday is the culmination. On the other hand, the long list of “to do” items back at the store grows for both me and Dave, so we are eager to get back and begin handling those things.
A delegate from Illinois stopped by earlier on a bike to chat about a power scooter for his 93-year old uncle who wants to go to listen to Obama’s speech on Thursday. He was frustrated not to have found us earlier. He says he will rent one on Thursday, assuming he can get a ticket for his uncle. He then went on to talk about the conflict he felt being a delegate for Senator Clinton, that is, until she visited their delegation early in the day to say that she is fully behind Senator Obama. By this point in the day, of course, she had called for his nomination by acclimation. The man on the bike was living history!

8:00 p.m.
I am always aware of the role we play providing equipment and products for independence and mobility. There is something, however, being on the streets, encountering people in these large numbers, some of whom do not have the means or the information they need to acquire some of these products, that moves me even more. I wonder again about the road that had led me here, and while I cannot explain it all, I end this day grateful for the chance to be on it. This experience will live inside me a very long time!

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