Update on the Memorial Union and Disability Harassment

So, in my last blog post I brought you the story of the UW Memorial Union trampling on my rights as a disabled individual and asking me to leave for having a Segway, then once told the Segway was for mobility purposes twenty times and by several people, asking if I had a membership, when I admitted I didn’t they asked me to leave for that.  Then I asked two more people if they had memberships and they said no and the building manager Jeff didn’t care.  I had requested at that time that people call in and discuss their frustration.  So a lot of people may ask, what is the status?

I got a call today from Jeff’s supervisor and he stated that I was indeed asked to leave for the Segway then I was only asked if I was a member because I was “confrontational”.  I would like to note that in the video I posted, I didn’t start recording until about 15-20 minutes into the conversation and after being asked to leave several times simply because of my mobility device and dealing with an ignorant employee.  The supervisor who left a message today did acknowledge that it is illegal to decline me simply because I use a Segway so at least he knew the law (unlike the Tea Party critics who have said otherwise).  What he failed to acknowledge is that is the only reason Jeff wanted me gone.

So let’s go to yesterday, a day after the incident.  I went to the Memorial Union once more to test their compliance.  I was met by three building managers this time (none of them being Jeff or the other guy the other day who stood silently).  They informed me that since I am a known non member they will be asking for my membership any time they see me.  I informed them that the only reason I am a known non member is that Jeff had discriminated against me and harassed me and they are now selectively enforcing policies on just me and that is still discrimination.  They didn’t budge but did let me stay as I had a guest pass.  They said if I ever show up and fail to produce any sort of membership they will kick me out and acknowledged that they are not worried about anyone else there being a member or not.

They did back off of the Segway and said that it was fine to have if I use it for mobility (which I always do) but that I should inform other Segway people that recreational use of the Segway will not be permitted (this is reasonable and legal).  So the discrimination continues.  This is just wrong and I would expect higher of a building run in partnership with a prestigious institution like UW Madison.  An institution that prides itself on acceptance of everyone (although the disabled have long been left out as many buildings to this day are not accessible).   This is an injustice.  Many people would not fight it as far as I have, many disabled people would simply back down which is why it is so important we all fight this.

Now to the administrators of the Memorial Union.  You now know how to reach me, I have given you my card countless times.  I am prepared to bring legal action for discrimination and harassment, but to be honest, would prefer not to.  Not because I have no legal grounds, because the video alone shows harassment and discrimination, but because I am fighting many other legal battles right now (as most reading this will already know) with the State of Wisconsin.   I don’t have time, you don’t have time, so let’s seek resolution.  I am asking that everyone reading this call the supervisors one being Roger Voght (who rarely answers but leave a message) at 608-262-6252 and the other Mr. Kennedy at 608-262-5079 and request that they both terminate Jeff for disability harassment, and either stop harassing me completely or offer a complimentary membership to stop the harassment.

If this was about the membership I would gladly buy one but this goes beyond that.  This is about selectively targeting and enforcing policies they never care about on solely me.  And it all started just because I want to live a normal life and not let my cardiac condition hinder my life so therefore use a Segway for mobility.   An injustice to one is an injustice to all.  So please, make the phone calls, let’s send a clear message that what they are doing is wrong and that all disabled should be allowed the same access as the general public.  Because for those of you who don’t know the Memorial Union it is a public access building, there are no signs anywhere saying you need a membership, and although this may be the policy, the only time anyone is asked is occasionally when buying beer.  Thousands of non members pass through all day without any problems whatsoever.  It is also the local Greyhound stop as well as stop for several other bus lines.  Please call, they must know that profiling is unacceptable.  Thank you and have a wonderful day!

UPDATE: So it is political!!  Thanks to a random comment on my blog post I found Jeff, the building manager at the Union’s Twitter profile and he is Tea Party it would seem and even brags about kicking me out…  Here he is complete with picture!!  Please refer to my latest blog post and DEMAND his resignation!


Jeremy Ryan

Executive Director

Defending Wisconsin PAC