Letters to the EditorNews

Train Police on Disability Rights

After being bothered for a number of weeks by an incident that occurred during the first home game for the Bulldogs this season, I have decided that it is important to share it.

A friend and fellow graduate student at UGA was excited to attend his first game. He is from another city in Georgia and had never been to Sanford Stadium. This young Black man is physically disabled. He arrived at the stadium via Lyft, attempting to be dropped off at the disability gate. Traffic was, as one might expect of the first home game day, very congested. 

This young man requires a device to help him walk but is not in a wheelchair. It would have taken him a few moments longer to make his way into the appropriate gate nearest to the very limited disability seating. The attending police officers would not allow him to stop in front of his gate. My friend attempted to explain his situation. His driver attempted to explain the situation.  The main officer they spoke to, moving hands from waist to utility belt, clearly had zero interest in the fact that he was disabled and had no intention of helping him avoid the very long walk from the opposite side of the stadium that he ultimately had to take as a result.  

I am currently a candidate in the master of social work degree program and focusing some of my research this term on issues of disability rights on college campuses. As someone who was born in Athens and plans to work and retire here, I must ask, is there any training at all for both city or campus officers in how to proactively ensure the safety and well-being of disabled residents in our community? It would seem that human decency would be the default response in such cases, but sadly, as I have come to learn, this is not the first time such incidents have occurred in Athens and, unless something radically changes, will certainly not be the last.