Getting Even - You can't go that way

U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges In January, 2009, the President of the American Disability Association visited the U.S. Embassy at Quito to visit U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges and to assist in the accommodation of disabled filmmaker Patricio Burbano. The Ambassador refused to meet with our President during his visits to the U.S. Embassy at Quito, Ecuador.

During the discussion regarding accommodations, a staff member at the Embassy gave us a taste of what was to come when she agreed, that yes, perhaps forms used for immigration purposes failed to obtain enough information from applicants, particular whether they required reasonable accommodations during their processing by the U.S. Embassy. We began discussing Burbano's specific disability and need for accommodation, one was arranged and subsequently not honored by the Consul staff at the Embassy. Burbano left after he was told "You are absolutely eligible, but you don't have adequate ties to Ecuador." This after we had made the Consul aware that Burbano's grandfather had served briefly as President of Ecuador in the 1950's.

big pic alt When leaving the U.S. Embassy, no one expected any problem. But immediately Burbano was stopped by the Embassy guards. Freeman kept walking, slowly, toward the handicap parking area of the U.S. Embassy at Quito. They parked the vehicle in the handicap space and together Freeman and Burbano entered the embassy. Upon leaving, neither Burbano or Freeman were told why they could not leave the same way and manner in which they had entered, and it became very clear that the guards would not allow either Freeman or Burbano to pass to the handicap parking area.

pic2 alt When asked what those with disabilities should do, the guard showed his intention that we should climb a dirty grass hill to exit the Embassy. Both of us climbed the hill and Freeman waited while Burbano was made to walk back to handicap parking by walking back to where the car entered the U.S. Embassy in order to access handicap parking.

Sharon Weber Not being allowed to use the handicap entrance as our exit was a physical assault. This all happened within minutes of Freeman, Burbano and Quito Consul Sharon Weber discussing access and architectural barriers at the Embassy (see photo of this discussion occurring).

Placard Put simply, our President used his Alabama handicap placard to access handicap parking at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, but when leaving he was told to climb a hill and wait on the sidewalk while Burbano retrieved the car from the handicap parking lot at the U.S. Embassy.

His comments about this torture against him by the United States and the press release regarding the matter are available.

Staff at the American Disability Association have suggested that this conduct by the U.S. Embassy violates Ecuador's Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol and, at least when not permitted to return to the handicap parking, also violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As of yet no one at the State Department has apologized or made any overture whatever that any apology is even in order. Freeman and Burbano are seeking international counsel to grieve the violation of their international rights as people with disabilities in Ecuador

There does not seem to be any way that we at the American Disability Association will be allowed to use our existing film crew in completing our documentary because the United States, in addition to blockading the handicap parking to let us know our documentary, and perhaps our very organization is now persona non grata in the United States.

Finally, we need the support of people across the Americas in pursuing this work. We have had several occasions to require additional legal support in our mission, and generally our legal staff requires financial support. Please take our appeal to your churches and civic organizations. No one else is doing the sort of continent-wide oversight that our agency does. Because of our work in South America we were able to identify a demographic which needs assistance here in the United States and may be 'off the grid' as to traditional safety net protections during the Global Economic Crisis.

By helping others we have found problems here in the United States that are not adequately being addressed and we want to raise our voice wherever we find inequality. We also need your help.

We welcome the involvement of other media in telling our story. We welcome your donations, through the link below, in support of our work.

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We must not allow anybody to make us feel that we are born to live in poverty and deprivation, we must make it clear: we are going to live in dignity and honor.
-- Martin Luther King
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