August 2011

Bridal Shop Discriminates Against Woman in Wheelchair

Stephanie Deible

Kentwood, Michigan bride-to-be, Stephanie Nash, went with her bridesmaids find the perfect dress at Kim Kriner’s Bridal Boutique. What she didn’t expect to find was a sign saying, “Our store is NOT wheelchair accessible… Thank you for your understanding.” Nash’s bridesmaid Stephanie Deible, who uses a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, says this is the most discrimination she has ever faced.

The Unwelcoming Sign

The girls didn’t let the sign stop them from entering the store, figuring the sign was not meant to be taken seriously. They were greeted by saleswoman Deborah Simmons, who told the girls she wasn’t sure if Deible could come in because of her wheelchair. The bride quickly told the saleswomen that they would go slow and be careful. Deible says, “They were completely in fear, I guess, that I would ruin the dresses trying to look at them and wheel around the store.”

The Aisles of Kim Kriner's Bridal Boutique

It continues to puzzle many that it has been twenty-one years since the ADA has been passed, and yet there are still businesses that continue to be non-wheelchair accessible. Curt Benson, a professor at Cooley Law Schools, had this to say about the incident, “It’s 2011. Seriously, [you’re] gonna put up a sign saying we don’t want people in wheelchairs? It’s absurd. It really is absurd.”

The final humiliating blow from this business came when Deible was told not to bring her wheelchair into the dressing room. Simmons says, “We ask people to take their shoes off when they try on gowns. So, asking for the wheels not to be in there, too, I didn’t feel was going out of line. In my head, I didn’t feel like I was asking her anything that was out of the ordinary.”

Stephanie and her two closest friends

However, a walking person does not lose their mobility when you ask them to take their shoes off. A person who is wheelchair mobile loses their mobility when you ask them to leave their wheelchair behind, and that is out of the ordinary.


Worker with Cerebral Palsy Accepts Settlement from Target


Target decides on a $160,000 settlement with Jeremy Schott to resolve federal charges that the company discriminated against their employee with cerebral palsy.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged Target with severely cutting Schott’s hours and not making the reasonable accommodations he required to be effective at his job. The company did not offer to acknowledge any truth to the charges filed against them as part of the agreement.

Jeremy Schott began what started as a successful employment opportunity with Target in 2002. Schott’s cerebral palsy required accommodations such as a job coach, and for either his parent’s or job coach to be present during employee reviews. The young man thrived at his new job at first, as he achieved “Target Hero of the Month” in 2003.

The trouble started when Jeremy had to take a medical leave in 2004 after having a seizure that required him to take a break from his job duties for a while. When Jeremy returned from his medical leave, he returned to find his hours to be cut to as low as eight hours a week. On top of all this, the company failed to make the reasonable accommodation of a job coach or parent be present during employee reviews. Thus, the EEOC moved forward with filing a federal lawsuit in 2009 claiming that Target violated the ADA.

Target’s original response to the law suit was that it was unaware of the extent of Schott’s medical issues at the time they hired him. However, this is no excuse in the California courtroom, as past EEOC lawsuits have shown. The Second District of appeals said that there is no purpose in any employee invoking the protecting cloak of the law, as the law is already present. It is the responsibility of the employer to open dialog with the employee for reasonable accommodations.

Along with the settlement, Target has agreed to create a policy in regards to fulfilling reasonable accommodations for all current and future employees with disabilities.


Paralyzed Hiker Plans to Climb Iceland’s Highest Peak


Leifur Leifsson, a service representative and Iceland native, was born September 22, 1984. Although Leifsson suffers from paralysis, he will not let being paralyzed from the waist down stop him from accomplishing his goal of climbing Iceland’s tallest peak. Hvannadalshnúkur (pronounced: kvan-atals-nu-kyr) is a part of the Skaftafell National Park, and is located in the north-western rim of the Öræfajökull Volcano in Iceland.

Öræfajökull is a sub glacier of which is the largest glacier in Europe, and stretches 2,110 meters above sea level. The last official measurement of Hvannadalshnúkur , taken August 2005, established its height at 6,921 ft, which is equivalent to the empire state building stacked 5.5 times, or a 564-story building.

Leifsson, who has used a wheelchair his whole life, has never allowed his disability to hold him back. For example, he was the first man in a wheel chair to climb the mount Esja, which is located in the southwest of Iceland. In 2004, Liefsson collaborated with the European Union and created the documentary titled Invalid Invincible. The film was based on what can be accomplished despite one’s disability. Additionally, he is a member if the Junior Chamber International, Inc. (JCI), which is an international organization for young entrepreneurs between the ages of 18-40.


With eight months of preparation, Leifsson is set to begin his journey. He is having a wheelchair special made, so that he may embark on his adventure this summer. He will be traveling with Flugbjörgunarsveit Reykjavíkur, a search and rescue team who has made the climb before.

I will climb it myself with my arm strength,” Leifsson said. In order for him to complete the climb safely, they will move an anchor with a winch 250 meters above his head at a time, and he will pull himself towards it. A task that seems to be very difficult, but Leifsson is determined to complete it.


Double Amputee Soldier Aims To Conquer Mt. Kilimanjaro

Cpl. Mark Fuchko

Three years ago Corporal Mark Fuchko had a bleak outlook on his future after losing both his legs in an explosion while on duty in Afghanistan. Today, the soldier is preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro on two artificial limbs.

In the months following his injuries, Mark endured months of difficult rehabilitation that gave him doubts of reaching his goal of walking much less climbing a mountain. However, his determination and ambition paid off as he was walking by Christmas of that year.

Cpl. Mark Fuchko

Mark decided to join the group of 37 people set to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for the Orthopedic Surgery Centre at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Mark states, “I don’t care if I have to climb on all fours with two broken artificial limbs, I will make it to the top.”

The feat of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is not one for the faint of heart. This climb involves eight hour days of climbing, altitude sickness, and exposure to the elements. Corporal Fuchko’s prosthetic limbs will make this feat even greater.

Cpl. Mark Fuchko

However, Mark is confident as he is not the first amputee to dive into accomplishing the seemingly impossible. Other soldiers — some of them amputees, others in wheelchairs — have accomplished the climb of Kilimanjaro. The climbers strove to raise over 500,000 before their climb began this year.

Cpl. Mark Fuchko

“When I lost my limbs, I thought my opportunity to do cool things like this were definitely out of the picture, and now I’ve been given this opportunity and I do want to make the most of it,” he said. Corporal Mark Fuchko is truly an inspiration to all of us. He has overcome all obstacles and will let nothing stand in his way to reach the top of this mountain.

Cpl Mark Fuchko on Kilimanjaro trail


UGA Graduate Inspires Through Wheelchair Racing

inspirational wheelchair racer Jeremy Maddox

Jeremy Maddox, a graduate from the University of Georgia, is a twenty-nine year old team member of of the Shepherd Center’s wheelchair racing team. He has been to every state in the continental United States to participate in races and marathons.  Maddox’s goal is to generate advocacy and inspiration in the handicapable community.

Wheelchair Racing

Maddox fell in love with racing and speed as a child. “Anything I could get on that could go fast or jump or whatever, I always wanted to be on it,” he said. In his teens, he found motocross, a sport that satisfied his love for speed. It was his love for motocross that eventually cost him his ability to walk, however.

Maddox was at a 1998 national motocross qualifier in Dalton, GA when the accident happened. He fell from his bike and landed hard enough to damage his spinal cord causing him to lose the use of his legs. He was hurried to the hospital, but it was clear to the medical professionals that there was nothing they could do for the young 16 year old. Maddox was sent shortly after to the Shepard Center in Atlanta, GA.

“Crap happens,” says Maddox. “It happens to everybody. There’s always another side and you’ve always got to look at the brighter side. You have to decide every day if you’re going to look at every day in a positive or negative way.” It is this very same attitude that led Maddox to look at his new lifestyle in a different light. He saw this as an opportunity to spread awareness, generate advocacy, and to inspire the community around him.

“This is a great tool to encourage, influence and help out other people… That’s what a lot of the racing has been to me,” he said. Maddox enjoys every opportunity he gets to grab everyone’s attention and to speak with people.

Jeremy Maddox - wheelchair racing

“You push a race chair through the airport, people stop you and ask where you’re going, what you’re doing. If it sparks people’s interest or curiosity, that’s really good.”


Walk n Roll Frankie Dog

Frankie the Wheelchair Dog Inspires Young and Old Alike

After suffering from a ruptured disk five years ago, Frankie the Dachshund’s mobility became restricted to a doggie cart, but a little thing like that never got in Frankie’s way of living!

Frankie is an eleven-year-old miniature dachshund, who inspired her owner and beloved friend, Barbara Techel. Barbara was afraid that Frankie’s new disability would make her dear friend depressed, because she could no longer walk on all her four paws. However, Frankie impressed her owner by carrying on about in her doggie cart, as if she had always moved around with it. She did this despite the daily challenges and adjustments that come with a new form of mobility.

Frankie the Walk n Roll dog express

“Frankie’s story is so uplifting,” said Barbara. “Even faced with a hardship, she has remained positive.” Barbara became inspired by her companion’s determination, and decided to make Frankie the hero of her very own children’s book series. She took a hint from Frankie and made her children’s books about keeping positive attitudes.

Frankie the Walk n Roll Dog with her book

The books Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog and Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Therapy Dog Visits Libby’s House tell the story of how this small creature overcame some major challenges in her life. The inspirational power team, with Frankie as the hero and Barbara as her voice, have traveled to over three hundred elementary schools, libraries, and organizations spreading inspiration and strength to overcome adversity.

Frankie the Walk n Roll Dog

After one library reading, a long line of kids waited patently to thank Frankie, and to give her a scratch behind the ears of course. One seven year old said what all the children was thinking, “I wanted to take Frankie home with me. It was really good.”


Wheelchair Accessibility Class-Action Suit Against LA Angels


Class-action has been granted to a lawsuit brought against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, CA by J. Paul Charlebois, a wheelchair user denied admission to the Club Level at Angel Stadium. Now that this lawsuit has reached class-action, baseball fans who are wheelchair mobile will have more variety in seating selections in the future.

The class-action status makes more wheelchair accessibility a priority to be evaluated by section, rather than the whole facility. The baseball fan said he was denied access to the Club Level at Angel Stadium, the only section that provides waiter and waitress food and beverages services, because the two wheelchair accessible seats were taken.


Charlebois is seeking for more options per section to be provided for persons who need wheelchair accessible seating. This is especially needed for the Club Level, because it has a waitstaff, wide hallways, and a great view. These aspects make the Club Level look like it would be the most desirable for those who are wheelchair mobile.

One statement included in support of the Motion for Class Certification in Case No. SACV 10-0853 DOC (ANx) said this:

Based on the first hand experience of wheelchair users, it appears that the wheelchair accessible seating on the Club Level of Angel Stadium… is completely unavailable for wheelchair users who wish to attend Angels baseball games.”

The passed motion gives hope for the future, as this could mean equal access in ballparks and stadiums across the country.