First Post...

With several hundred thousand people converging on DC, Why another blog about the Inaugual? Well, for the first time ever there is a "Disability Pride and Power Ball", Obama has said many positive things about disability issues and it looks to be a few days that are going to be very memorable. I leave tomorrow morning and hope to be capturing photos videos and memories all weekend long


part one: Getting there is half the fun, making reservations isn't...

Trying to find accurate information about inaugural weekend seemed at times more difficult than pulling teeth with a blunt object. Many sites were reporting that all the trains in and out of DC were completely full, that it would be impossible to find any way to get into the city and four million people were going to be on the mall Tuesday, January 20th. While there were sold out trains, commuter trains run by MARC and Amtrak for the morning of the 20th. However the Metro itself added a bunch more routes all weekend so it was somewhat crowded on Monday and Tuesday, but nothing terribly ridiculous, but I was not using my wheelchair on the Metro, and that would have been more difficult than usual, but nothing that adding some time and planning would not have solved. Getting there was only difficult as it seemed that every flight between Maine (where I live) and the DC area was either sold out or selling for double the normal fare.

As would be the case for the entire trip, fate seemed to step in and work some magic. After spending the better part of 5 hours researching airfare, at 11:30 on Friday night (1/16), I found a really great fare down to Baltimore for the next afternoon, and I got bumped up to first class for free. I had friends in DC willing to meet me near the airport, and there is a reliable bus from the Baltimore airport to the Metro, that costs a couple dollars. Better still, the friends I was staying with decided to meet me at The Greenbelt Metro stop, so me, my wheelchair and my luggage did not have to fight the Metro system. The Metro is actually relatively accessible, but my friends were wonderful, so hey, if it's one less thing I needed to worry about, I was not going to refuse a free ride. The flight was fine, it took less than three hours to fly from Portland, ME to Baltimore, grab the Bus to the Metro, meet my friends and drive into DC.

The need to be in DC proper could not be overstated. Bridges were closing Sunday to cars from Virginia, and the MARC system was sold out of trains on Inauguration day. It was also kind of interesting as I had been quoted in an article on access and the inaugural, which was carried by the Associated Press. I saw the article made all sorts of papers nationally and internationally. My local paper dedicated a full page to it, which was awesome. Being in DC and having friends who were more than willing to drive me around the city made accessiblity much easier for me. I had planned to go to the Opening Concert with U2 and Springsteen, but decided to stay in, chill out and relax, as I was going to the Disability Pride and Power Ball that night. I knew I'd be exhausted and I really needed to manage my energy levels, or else I would just be much more tired, and the trip would have drained my energy. I used my wheelchair for energy management, and I realize it was the only way I could have handled my schedule without being completely exhausted.

The Disability Pride and Power Ball - an article

Off to the Inaugural Ball
By Mike Reynolds

I never thought I'd ever make it to any sort of inaugural ball, I've been offered tickets in 1997 to one when Clinton was sworn in for his second time, but it was literally two weeks after I had just gone to DC for a few days for an action, and while my best friend was interning in DC. I was in college and at that time I didn't even own a suit, let alone a tuxedo or knew where to rent one. So when the opportunity came to attend the Disability Pride and Power Ball, I knew it was one ball I could not miss. The Ball was held at the National Press Club, a place I revere as a journalist, right in downtown DC.

From the first moment I entered, I knew this was going to be a memorable night. There were people everywhere, as I went to will-call to get my ticket, seeing how awesome the ticket itself looked, I was at an amazing event. Armed with my ticket to the ball, and two free drink tickets, I rolled in and saw so many folks from the disability community that I knew, and seeing a bunch of folks I never had met, it felt like an historic celebration. It was wall to wall people looking incredibly dressed up and jovial.

The Disability Pride and Power Ball was historic for a number of different reasons. It was the first time that the Disabled as a political power could have their own inaugural ball, where folks using assistive technology probably out numbered folks who did not. It was kind of chaotic, in that the halls of the National Press Club was quite narrow in their hallways, but people coped fine. In fact, if anything, the biggest issue was that so many folks were there, it was impossible to fin d anyone easily. There was a dance floor populated with all sorts of crutches, canes and wheels (myself included).

When Marcie Roth, CEO of ADAwatch and one of the organizers of the event, insisted I follow her. I'm one who knows that Marcie enough to know it is probably worth seeing. Marcie's insistence paid off, I got a great seat to Geri Jewell's stand-up comedy act, and a dance routine by performance artist, dancer Bill Shannon. Jewell is best known for her character on the 80's sit-com “The Facts of Life” where she played a student with Cerebral Palsy. More recently she has been in the HBO series “Deadwood.” Jewell also made it a point to discuss the “Iampwd.com” campaign, a push to get actors with disabilities equitable percentages of roles as the prevelance of disability in film and television. Shannon has danced in prestigious festivals throughout the world, and often integrates a skateboard and modified crutches for his dancing. He did a residency at the Bates Dance Festival, and I have seen a video of his performance, but this night was my first time seeing him live. I captured his performance and uploaded it as he was nothing short of incredible. The Evening's MC was none other than Tony Coelho, one of the architects of the ADA.

Several political folks were at the event, but there were over 900 people there and it was the inauguration where over two million people were scheduled to show up for events two days later. I heard Sen. Tom Harkin was there, but didn't see him myself. Christina Tchen, White House director-designate of Public Liason, and Kareem Dale, special advisor on disability issues for President Obama. Also addressed the crowd, and the promised to engage the disability community in policy concerns. I think given the crowd, many will take him up on the offer.

Unfortunately the Metro was shutting down at midnight, so the majority of folks were leaving at 11:30. However, the folks I stayed with told me they'd pick me up, so I got to chat with several good friends for an additional amount of time. As I was leaving, I was grinning from ear to ear, thinking that I'd been at one of the best events of the weekend. While I was right, The inauguration was far from over, and I would realize that the events of Tuesday would be pretty incomprehensibly awesome.

The Disability Pride and Power Ball

Here is a slide-show of photos of the Disability Pride and Power Ball at the National Press Club. This blog will be providing some more coverage of the Inaugural, it's just sometimes tech issues are difficult to troubleshoot on the road, and sometimes, you are tired after spending your morning with a million other folks. For now, Here is a cool slide-show. If you like what you are reading, check out Independence Today, -

Mike R.

Video from The Disability Pride and Power Ball

This video is of Bill Shannon, an incredible dancer who was featured at the disability Inaugural Ball on Sunday night. He shared the bill with comedieene Geri Jewell, and MC Tony Coelho.

Photos from the Inaugural - 1-20-09

Here are pictures from when I went down to the swearing in of Barack Obama, from leaving the place i was staying, to seeing history being made along with approximately two million other folks. Written blogs covering the Disability Ball and the Inaugural will be posted soon.


Me and two million other folks witnessed history...

Part Three

“It's History, and you have never seen two million folks act so kind”
by Mike Reynolds

When I first considered going to the inaugural, I was pretty sure I'd be able to score a couple tickets, but it wasn't to be(No thanks to my local rep I volunteered/ interned for an entire summer for). I've been invited to the white house in the past and figured it would not be difficult, but it was quite impossible and after reading the ridiculous restrictions by security and talking to a few friends about access issues and everything, I was not entirely sure I was going to go down to the mall. The information I received from a close friend who did the second Clinton Inaugural really was very sobering in terms of the complete lack of accessibility. I had expressed concerns to several friends on various listservs and apparently, someone gave my information to an AP writer (who was absolutely incredible! Hi Gillian!) so on Thursday before the inaugural, I ended up quoted on several hundred websites around the world complaining about how backpacks being prohibited was a barrier to accessibility.

I skipped the free concert on the National Mall because it was cold, I didn't want to get too overtired, and the Disability Ball would already have me out late. Monday night, I tried to get to a performance of Les Miserables, but the shuttle I needed to take was not running and the crush of folks in the mall by pentagon city was pretty hard to take. I figured the only way I was going to make it to the mall was walking, I would have used a crutch if I had mine there, but I didn't, So I chilled out Monday night, woke up at 8:30 AM Monday to reports that the Metro was already crammed with people. But the crowds LOOKED HAPPY on TV, so I figured it would be ridiculous to miss such a historic event, But I also needed to stay safe. My phone was fully charged, a precaution as it nearly died while trying to get to Les Miserables. I meant to have a map loaded into my phone, but forgot, It would be useless as metro was randomly shutting down various stations. I signed up for the free text messenging service for notifications, but never got a single text. I emailed folks who I knew would wonder where I was if I didnt email to say I made it back by a reasonable time and I had a flight leaving a bit after 3 pm. My entire goal was to see the swearing in and rush out to catch my flight.

Tuesday was incredibly cold, I stopped at a street vendor and bought a hat and gloves immediately. My camera's batteries were drainng quickly due to the cold and I had meds and other essentials in my backpack and headed towards the mall. The bus I took to the Chinatown Metro stop was packed, but people were really in good spirits, there was this electricity in the air, it was really exciting. There were vendors everywhere selling really original unlicensed t-shirts, I probably would have bought one if I had the time, but I realized I had two heavy bags I needed to get back to Maine with and figured I could find one if I needed it on ebay. Then I figured I could always make my own if I made it onto the mall, or at least somewhere close.

I made it to the Chinatown Metro stop and went toward Judicary Square when I meant to go to Union Station. I thought I blew it, but I think I erred on the side of brillance. As soon as I got out of the Metro Station, I just followed the stream of the crowd. Appearently, I went through the 3rd St tunnel and was right by where the Silver and Blue ticket holders were going in. I glanced at my watch and the line – which went for several blocks and realized those folks probably were not going to get in to the ticketed area. I trudged south, figuring I might be fortunate to make it somehow into the line of sight of the Capitol, or see a Jumbotron.

I do not know exactly how I made it down to the mall , but it was probably a 30 minute walk before I realized I was near the Space and Flight Museum and saw the new Native American Museum. My friend specifically told me where the family restroom was, as it was accessible and usually really clean. Given the medical issues I have, I figured being near the museum was a good idea, and I remember seeing it was right in back of the ticketed area. Primo viewing area, but I honestly never thought I'd get THAT close. As for my view – it wasn't bad, I heard Aretha Franklin and Ithzak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma play John Williams new composition. I'm a huge closet classical music junkie and it was awesome to hear. I saw someone with a jacket from Maine, but she was too far away from me to hear. I heard the announce that Bill and Hillary Clinton were there and found folks to help me take a picture of my cousin's daughter's “Flat Stanley” Project. Flat Stanley is appearently a newer way for kids in the younger grades to use networking and see where their flat stanley's (a paper doll) can go to in the world. Before I received it – it was in Egypt at the pyramids – another relative went there for the holidays.

I will say I never felt more happy to be an American. I totally was overjoyed seeing President Obama being sworn in. I didn't hear the flubbed oath, I could not see anyone from where I was but I heard most of it. Five minutes past noon I knew I needed to get back to where I was staying to get my stuff and head to the Airport in Baltimore. My knowledge of Capitol Hill helped tremendously with the trek up past the Library of Congress and further – about a block north of Union Station – it was a half hour walk and I was truly surprised when the first cab that passed by as I was hailing a cab stopped for me. I tipped him well.

Overall it was one of the more incredible events I ever been to. I've seen the Grateful Dead in Vermont with a crowd estimated at a 100,000. This was actually far more mellower than that. The news reported there were no arrests from the ceremony, and I actually believe that it was because everyone was just in such great spirits. I think the best way to describe it would be part presidential inauguration, part civil rights march, part party for the end of the George Bush presidential era. In any event, I have had a smile pretty much the entire week since I was on the mall. My photos came out as good as could be expected without getting in the media area or being there from 4 AM. If anything, I feel proud to be a part of history, with a president I hope will bring the country into a new era. And I made my flight with a reasonable time to spare. Yes, Indeed, We Can.