Churchill's bad press with disabled may help area become more handicap-accessible


by Michelle Arnold

Posted on May 19, 2014 at 7:16 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- A lot of people were surprised Saturday when, after California Chrome's Preakness win, co-owner Steve Coburn called out Churchill for poor treatment of his partner's mother who is in a wheelchair.

"The hospitality we received at Churchill Downs wasn't very good," Coburn said. "It was a bad day for my partner and his family."

Churchill has apologized, but this is the latest in a few rounds of bad p.r. for the Louisville landmark. All of them have gained national attention.

The owners claim Perry Martin's 83-year-old mother, who uses a wheelchair, didn't receive good treatment, saying Churchill's staff didn't help her to her seat or to the Winner's Circle.

"It was surprising that some individuals still experience some problems with access and equal opportunities that everyone should be afforded today," David Allgood, the director of Advocacy Center for Accessible Living said.

The Center here in Louisville is disheartened by the series of complaints. Just last month, Triple Crown winning jockey Ron Tourcotte made news after saying he was disappointed in the treatment he received there as well. It's another complaint from a wheelchair user.

"It's federal law that you have to accessible if you're open to the public you have to be open to all the public that includes people with mobility impairments and wheelchair users," Allgood said.

Allgood said although this situation with Churchill Downs may seem negative in nature initially, it could eventually be used for a positive. It could allow us to to be handicap-accessible as a community.

"I did a little survey of my own," Allgood said. "I found over 55 businesses on Bardstown Road from Payne Street to Taylorsville Road that I can't access because they have one step or more."

Allgood is right. We took a walk down Bardstown and Baxter and saw dozens of businesses with no storefront handicap accessibility. Allgood said these setbacks aren't just insensitive, but they are also bad for the economy.

"People with disabilities are the largest minority in Kentucky and the second-largest in Louisville are people with disabilities," Allgood said. "So, making those changes now can only benefit those down the road."