A small group of disabled protesters attempted to draw attention to accessibility issues during Thursday's unveiling of three Olym-pic flags at the City-County Building.
The display on the third floor of city hall includes a flag designed for the 2002 Paralympics, the competition for disabled athletes from around the world that will follow the 2002 Winter Games.Members of the Disability Rights Action Committee, many in wheelchairs, carried signs to the unveiling ceremony calling for affordable housing that meets the standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Activist Barbara Toomer said the group was not invited to the event, which featured speeches from Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini and International Paralympic Committee President Robert Steadward.
"It brings to light how insensitive they are," Toomer said. "We have tried to work with them . . . (but) the Salt Lake Organizing Com-mittee doesn't consider the people of the state of Utah."
SLOC chief executive officer Frank Joklik said organizers have already taken a big step forward with the recent appointment of disabled athlete Mike Schlappi to the organizing committee's board of trustees.
"Those issues have to be addressed," Joklik said. Making Olympic facilities accessible, though, is the responsibility of local and state governments, he said.
Games organizers are considering proposals for media housing that could include building apartments that would be used as low-income residences after the Olympics.
"Our job is to put on the Olympic Winter Games and the Para-lympic Winter Games," Joklik said. SLOC is the first organizing committee to be responsible for both events.
Steadward, who is in Salt Lake City through Friday, said the organizing committee must treat both the Winter Games and the Paralympics fairly and equally.
"They have to be sure it's done equitably," Steadward said, especially in areas of promotion and marketing. "I'll be passing along a strong message to them."
Although the protesters gathered quietly and applauded through-out the ceremony, Salt Lake City's ADA coordinator, Kathy Sheehan, told them afterward they detracted from the event.
The Disability Rights Action Committee is among the coalition of advocates for disadvantaged Utahns that gave Olympic organizers low marks for failing to look out for the interests of the poor, disabled and minority communities.