Where’s the compassion?

A window into what local disability-rights advocate Becky Barnes-Boers faces in Chico

Last Friday, a man called the CN&R to voice his frustrations about our cover story, “Crusader for access,” Managing Editor Melissa Daugherty’s profile of a local disabled woman who advocates for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. That call was a small window into the pushback Becky Barnes-Boers faces every day.

The man said he’d worked at one of the construction sites where Barnes-Boers had taken photographs to document alleged cases of ADA non-compliance. He called that harassment and said he’d responded by turning around and taking a photograph of her. Retaliation of sorts.

Problem is, Barnes-Boers has every right to take pictures in a public right-of-way, without being hassled by construction workers and profiled by Chico police officers, whom the construction workers call because they somehow feel threatened by a middle-aged woman in a wheelchair.

The same caller charged Barnes-Boers had jeopardized the wellbeing of her child, who is sometimes with her. He also threatened to call “CPS”—Children’s Services—to get her son taken away. He called her names, some unfit to print here. And he called her a fraud.

Of that man, and the others who have harsh words for Barnes-Boers, we ask, “Where’s the compassion?”

This woman is simply asserting her right not to be discriminated against. Her motivation is being able to travel safely from point A to point B. She’s not going around suing local businesses. As a recent sweep by an out-of-area attorney has shown, a lot of businesses are out of compliance. But money isn’t a motivator for Barnes-Boer; compliance is. And getting compliance requires education. Business owners and construction companies should think about that. Instead of viewing her as a pest, they should take a few minutes to listen to her. She’s rational and, as the Chico Unified School District knows, she’s been proven right. In fact, she just might save you from a lawsuit.