Good turn deserving of another Club that hosted fund-raiser will build a ramp.

May 21, 1992|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

A few good things came out of Sunday's JamCram '92 arts benefit for disabled children: Organizers raised about $2,000, the public saw art that rarely makes it to museums, and the club that held the festival was persuaded to install an access ramp for the handicapped.

Marilynn J. Phillips, an activist for the disabled who uses a wheelchair, called the Paradox Club the day of the festival to see if it was freely accessible to the people the event was organized to aid.

She was disappointed to find out that the only ramp was a steep incline at a loading dock behind the club that is in an old warehouse at 1301 Russell St.

"A loading ramp is where garbage is taken up and down and disabled people aren't garbage," said Ms. Phillips, a professor of English at Morgan State University. "A loading ramp behind the building is like being forced to the back of the bus."

"In our efforts to do something good, we overlooked that part," said Wayne O. Davis, 39, a partner in the Paradox. "We've always brought wheelchairs in a door that has one step, but after talking with Ms. Phillips I decided to have a ramp put in that meets the code."

Mr. Davis said he expects the ramp to be installed in about four weeks.

The Paradox, an after-hours dance hall, donated the club to supporters of Camp Raven, a summer camp for kids with severe disabilities held at White Oak Elementary School in Parkville.

Tiana Diaz, a special education instructor who founded the camp last summer, organized JamCram '92 with Ellen Dontigney, a veteran fund-raiser for the alternative arts in Baltimore, and a team of volunteers.

"We considered the space to be wheelchair accessible, the curbs there are cut, there's a ramp in the back, the bathrooms are wheelchair accessible, and there's only one step out front that I didn't consider to be insurmountable," said Ms. Diaz, who described the tone of Ms. Phillips' call as "hostile."

bTC Said Ms. Dontigney: "It's fallacious to say the festival wasn't accessible to the handicapped. If you came around the back, you could drive a car into the building."

Ms. Phillips said a ramp for the disabled that meets federal codes has to be a minimum of one foot long for every inch of height, complete with a landing at the top and appropriate railings. For example, if a step into a building is 8 inches off the ground, a ramp leading to the doorway must be 8 feet long.

"That's the minimum requirement," she said. "It's highly recommended that there be 16 inches of ramp for every inch of height."

Speaking to the irony of a benefit for disabled children failing to meet legislated codes for handicapped accessibility, Ms. Phillips said: "I would like to see people who work with disabled children to work for social justice for those children, not just pity-centered [fund-raisers]."

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