Ladder prevents Rhode Island broadcaster with cerebral palsy from announcing at VCU game

Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 6:35 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - VCU’s Athletics Department is under fire after an alleged ADA violation that left a radio announcer from the University of Rhode Island shocked and horrified.

The URI announcer and Sports Information Director, Shane Donaldson, has cerebral palsy. He traveled nearly 500 miles for Tuesday’s basketball game and quickly learned there was no accessible way for him to do his job.

“I’ve lived my whole life with this,” Donaldson said. “This is one of the rare times in my life where the emotion that washed over me and the feeling that I had, was that I was subhuman.”

The only way to enter the press area was via a ladder.

Donaldson says he knew immediately the ladder was not an option for him.

“I walk with a pronounced limp. The cerebral palsy that I have affects my balance greatly,” he said. “I do have a certain amount of pride as an adult where I don’t want to be lifted over a railing in a public setting. That’s embarrassing.”

Outrage poured in on social media.

VCU’s Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin apologized in a statement, saying the University’s ADA office is working to evaluate and rectify the situation immediately.

A statement sent to NBC12 also said:

“Once made aware of the situation, our facilities staff offered accommodations immediately, which the Rhode Island radio team chose not to accept.”

NBC12 asked Donaldson directly about what accommodations they offered.

“When that offer was made, it was made almost as a, you know, kind of looking around the facility saying...’I mean, we can try to come up with another solution,’” Donaldson said.

He says, at that point, it was too late.

“You’re talking 40 minutes before tip-off, and at that point, the radio equipment is already set up, just a couple minutes away from going on for the pregame show,” Donaldson said.

Even for an able-bodied person, Donaldson says the setup didn’t look safe.

“It was kind of shocking to see that that’s what the setup was in general, just from a common-sense standpoint and a liability standpoint,” he said.

Donaldson says the bigger message behind the situation is being more mindful of people who may look different than you.

“Often, the discrimination is not done intentionally, but it’s done from a lack of thought,” he said. “It’s out of a complete lack of understanding of what someone else that you don’t know about may have to deal with.”

Donaldson says he is looking into filing an official ADA complaint to ensure the issue is fixed and it never happens to someone else.

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