First, let me say how happy I am that the Black Rock City Department of Mobility exists. They provide a service that helps many Burners with disabilities gain a greater access to the Playa.
Second, I understand that "Powerchair" is unhappy with my decision to go elsewhere for this year's Burn, instead of participating with the Black Rock City Department of Mobility.
Finally, I feel that I must defend my position and reasoning for leaving the BRC Dept. of Mobility. I must defend as I believe that I have been unfairly attacked. But before I respond, please know that if anyone has any mobility issues I would urge you to visit the Dept. of Mobility's camp. They are working hard to provide a badly needed service.
1. Last year I was offered a power chair on our first day. After that I had a difficult time A) finding someone who would loan me a chair and B) finding a chair with an operative battery. Many of the chairs weren't working and or out of commission due to technical issues. That is why I chose instead to use my handcycle. I DID NOT opt to use the handcycle over the power chairs. It was the only option given the difficulties in finding someone to help and chairs that were operating.
2. The camp's priority is NOT the walking wounded. Yes, that is true. However, the camp was set up to cater to the walking wounded rather than those (like myself) with paralysis and need for accessible pathways and restrooms. Many times powerchairs and other items were left out, thus blocking the pathway to my tent. Furthermore, the pathway to the non-accessible restrooms was very difficult to navigate: very narrow and required zig-zagging through camps, RVs, etc. And the restrooms supplied for the camp were NON-WHEELCHAIR access restrooms. The camp suggested the use of a transfer board to access these inaccessible restrooms. A transfer board does not work for someone with total lower body paralysis. I therefore had to transfer to the ground and then crawl from the port-o-potty floor to the actual toilet bench.
3. We were told where the restrooms were on our first day, but had no idea how to get there. This was, after all, my first time at Burning Man. After much frustration, we ended up having someone from Center Camp info. take us to the accessible restrooms. Yes, the Dept. of Mobility did tell us to go to Center Camp for information. The Dept. of Mobility only took us to the non-accessible restrooms and not the disabled restrooms. I did not realize that the the accessible restrooms were on the map until four days into our Burn. This year, I will be more attentive.
4. I understand that showing up mid-week is frustrating for those who are in charge of camps. And that is one of the reasons we decided to forego the camp this year. Unlike some, I and the three individuals I'm traveling with, have full-time jobs. More specifically, I teach and cannot cancel class the first two weeks of the semester. One of my travel partners also teaches and cannot miss class for the Burn. Arriving mid-week and leaving with the Exodus was our only option. I apologize if this is an inconvenience to the camp.
5. As for the Saturday incident, I was told by all in the camp that everything would be taken care of and that I HAD TO SEE THE MAN BURN!!! Assessing that everything was alright, I left the camp. Unfortunately, the situation in question became more dire ONLY AFTER I left camp. However, when I returned, everyone (especially "Powerchair") addressing the situation and for that I am forever in "Powerchair's" and the Department of Mobility's debt. They did a wonderful thing, I'm sorry to discover that this was an issue after all.
6. Camp Fees: I was informed of camp fees a month and a half before the Burning Man event. The info. came after I had already agreed to join the camp and offer my services as a volunteer. $100 per person fee is a bit steep. After all, I and my companions have already spent a large sum of money on tickets. The mention of mandatory camp fees should have been mentioned several months ago, when I originally agreed to be a part of the mobility camp. More than four months had passed before I was informed that I and my fellow Burners each had to pay $100. I was willing to pay $220, in addition to film a segment about the camp (free-of-charge), and help out as needed. I also offered to fund the printing of tee shirts. Unfortunately, I was told by the camp that they would take care of the tee shirts. So, knowing that I and my companions could not afford the steep fees, we decided instead to go on our own.
7. As for wanting an accessible restroom and "prime" real estate, here are my thoughts: First, if the camp claims to provide mobility, access, etc., and only has NON-ACCESSIBLE restrooms... there's a problem. ADA Port-o-potties should be at the camp. It sounds like the camp WILL have ADA johns this year, which is wonderful. Unfortunately, this acquisition came only after our decision to leave the camp. Furthermore, I offered to help chat with the powers-that-be to get an accessible restroom. However, "Powerchair" told me that they would handle it.
Second, I don't ask for a "prime spot". I do ask for easy access for myself and my wheelchair. It's very difficult to navigate through cluttered camps and therefore requested a site that was out front and easy to get to and from. This is a mobility issue, one that the Camp should provide given their name and mission. I also felt a spot out front would make it much easier, given the fact that me and my team are arriving mid-week. It's clear that my request for a spot that is easily accessible is upsetting to the camp. This is another reason for my departure.
8. "Prat Boy". I'm sorry that you feel the need to start name calling. Never once have I said anything bad about you. In fact, I have posted several PR spots promoting the Dept. of Mobility and its resources on ePlaya. If my decision to leave is grounds for name calling, then so be it. But please, call me or email me. Don't resort to a public forum. It's inappropriate given how much I've wanted to help and participate as the ONLY paraplegic in your camp last year.
On a final note. Dear "Powerchair", I continually asked how I and my team could be of service, given our limited time on the Playa. The only suggestions you offered were: 1) Help watching the camp 2) Help with food 3) Give people rides in your golf cart (a golf cart that we purchased just in case camp powerchairs were once again unavailable) 4) Print tee-shirts (which you then told me would be handled by the camp). I was willing to help out with all of these things. Never once was camp set up or take down ever mentioned. I am also planning on doing some filming on the Playa. My goal this year was to create a small video on the Dept. of Mobility and it's services. This was to be my contribution and a hopeful publicity piece for the camp. A way to garner support (financial and otherwise) and to draw more folks with disabilities to the camp.
I, like you, believe in Playa access for anyone with a disability, physical or otherwise. I came to your camp last year and planned on returning this year despite several issues that I had experienced in 2009. I felt and feel that working together, we can create a wonderful experience for those with mobility issues. As someone with a spinal cord injury, I only want to help. But help as a volunteer, not a financier. I just don't have the finances to help fund your camp.
In closing, it saddens me that I have to defend myself and my reasons for going solo this year. But, given the fact that I have been attacked, I felt it necessary.
I'm sorry that you are upset with me, but please... call me to air your grievances. Please don't use a public forum. It's not in line with the spirit of Burning Man.
Much thanks and I hope that someday we can collaborate to make the most accessible Burn ever.