Swallows Day Parade May Not Go On

The City Council has demanded parade organizers change their policy of banning electric wheelchairs. They say they'll handle requests on a case-by-case basis. One councilman says that's not good enough.

The Swallows Day Parade may be cancelled unless the organizers behind it carry out a City Council mandate to allow participants in electric wheelchairs into the parade, said one San Juan Capistrano councilman.

“As of now, there will be no parade,” Councilman Derek Reeve said Friday.

The has for its first 53 years prohibited motorized vehicles of any kind, including electric wheelchairs. Organizers pride themselves on hosting one of the larger non-motorized parades in the country.

But , license and associated street closures unless the parade’s organizers, the Fiesta Association, changed its policy regarding electric wheelchairs.

Association members met Wednesday, said Jeff Schroeder, association publicity chairman, and decided to grant permission to one parade applicant, a man who appeared at the council meeting Tuesday, and, through his sister, Heidi Langefeld, asked to march in the parade as part of the Canine Companions for Independence drill team.

“The Fiesta board of directors and especially the parade chair (Ben Dixon), after having several verbal and email conversations with the sister of Herb, has determined that he does need his specialized chair to be mobile,” Schroeder said.

“We did offer several alternative suggestions, none of which was viable or acceptable," he added. "The board voted to accept this entrant and allow him to use his motorized wheelchair.”

But the decision is not in keeping with the letter or the spirit of the City Council’s decision, Reeve said.

“They are openly defying our elected City Council and placing us in an awkward position,” Reeve said. “While I remain optimistic the Fiesta Association will recognize they're fighting a losing battle and change this abhorrent policy, as of now, there will be no parade because of [their] inaction.”

Other City Council members and city personnel could not be reached for comment.

On Tuesday, Councilman Sam Allevato said: "By right, people with disabilities should be included in the parade." And Councilman John Taylor said, "I think the intent is that everybody should be able to participate."

The exact wording of the motion passed Tuesday was that the city would grant the parade permit, license and street closures “with the contingence that the Fiesta Association would remove their policy and allow the use of an electric  [wheelchair] if it is medically required."

Reeve, who himself is in an electric wheelchair, said he has tried to contact the Fiesta Association to correct the situation, but he has not received a response. He said he now plans to boycott all Fiesta Association events. The next event is this Sunday, the annual .

“Can you imagine if there was a ban on African-Americans for historical reasons, but they would give case-by-case exceptions?” Reeve said.

At the City Council meeting Tuesday, Fiesta Association representatives said one of the reasons for the wheelchair ban was the risk of scaring the horses in the parade. But Schroeder said that’s not actually the case.

“It was purely about the Swallows Parade 54-year tradition of being a non-motorized parade,” he said, “and, by the way, the city motto, which is ‘preserving the past, to enhance the future.’ ”

Schroeder said parade organizers are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act because alternatives are sought for the wheelchair-bound.

“According to ADA regulations, one must offer different alternatives to the person for his or her mobility,” Schroeder said. “This is nothing new for us. We have had similar requests in the past, but have always had an alternative that was viable and acceptable for the person,” he said, adding that the portable toilets found along the parade route and at the Mercado fair after the parade are handicapped accessible.     

A representative of the ADA section of the Department of Justice declined to comment.

sjcnative1 February 27, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Mike, it has nothing to do with free choice. It has to do with falling the Federal Law. Why would you want to discriminate against someone who is already confined to an electric wheelchair? Why do you want to insult them.
concerned parent February 27, 2012 at 04:28 PM
I'm not a resident of SJC, but have followed this debate with interest. It's sickening to me that parade organizers would support blatant discrimination in some twisted nod to tradition, instead of doing what's both legally required and morally right. It's also downright foolish from a business perspective. Don't they want non-residents to come watch the parade and spend money in the city? Do they really think we'll want to support an event that discriminates against individuals who are already less fortunate than the rest of us?
Cal Grimes February 27, 2012 at 05:59 PM
If the Fiesta Association is following the law by providing alternatives for their mobility then there shouldn't be an issue. It's been brought up in the past and dealt with. So if there are plans to accomodate wheelchairs, how could it be discrimination? It doesn't seem to be an issue with the ADA, as they elected not to comment. Attempting to stop the parade would be polical suicide. I think the association should stand their ground.
Matt Gaffney February 27, 2012 at 06:26 PM
If you're not a resident of Capo your opinion doesn't mean anything. We'll take care of our Parade on our own.
concerned parent February 27, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Thanks, Matt (and yes, you guys are doing a stellar job of it, aren't you?) Love the attitude and I'll keep it in mind in making future decisions about where to eat out, shop, etc.
sjcnative1 February 27, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Wow ! Last time I checked this is not The United States of Matt Gaffney. It is the United States where we do enjoy our Freedoms. I am sorry Concerned Parent that a life long resident of San Juan Capistrano (Matt Gaffney) reacted to you in this way. As another resident of San Juan Capistrano, we do enjoy you visiting our town and we value your opinion. Thank you for sharing. It is obvious that Matt is still learning what Freedoms we have in the United States and the laws that govern the ADA.
concerned parent February 27, 2012 at 07:28 PM
SJC native, I appreciate your comment and my self-imposed boycott is over in less than an hour! (which is good because we live close-by and eat out often in SJC). And, after all, there are rude people everywhere, so I shouldn't hold one person's comment against the entire town.
sjcnative1 February 27, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Cal, the City Council (5-0) voted to uphold the requirements of the ADA as required by law. The City Council unfortunately cannot allow the parade to go on if the Fiesta Association is not going to follow the ADA. Similar to the ramps that are installed to the dance floor in the Swallows Inn. Do we like them? No. Are they required as The Swallows Inn must be accessible to all people? Yes. By the Fiesta Association not following the ADA and requiring a waiver or permit, they are obviously discriminating against a person who is required to have a motorized wheelchair to get around. Why should a person in the United States be required to have a permit or waiver to use public property that the public owns?
SouthOCNative February 27, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Do the Fiesta Assocaiation think that suddenly 1000's of electric wheechairs are going to come out of the blue and want to be in the parade? i think, at most, not even a handful of participants would be in the parade in motorized wheelchairs. Let me ask you this---before this controvery arised and was made public did it ever even occur to anyone that they would specifically exclude an electric wheelchair? I sure did not!!!!! and was most surprised to see it in print in their rules! when i think of a non-motorized parade i think cars, motorized floats, the Shriner guys on their mini-motorcycles....not 1 person or two who requires the use of an electric wheelchair. And as far as alternatives, many disabled people do not have the balance (some have NO balance) or ability to use an alternate means or may not be able to sit on anything other than their specialized seats! and as far as pushing them -the chairs typically weigh several hundred pounds without anyone in them plus by removing the motors you de-activate any braking systerms and there are hills on the parade route!!!! if the fiesta association had just quietly removed this item from their rules--then we wouldnt even be having this discussion!
sjcnative1 February 27, 2012 at 08:29 PM
I agree with you. The entire controversy is in the hands of the Fiesta Association. The same people who banned the Smooth Puss badge until their was a controversy with that one. After that one, I did not renew my membership.
Matt Gaffney February 27, 2012 at 10:30 PM
That whole "Smooth Puss" idea was pretty hypocritical. The person who complained the most used to be one of the biggest supporters of the concept. It's interesting how we change upon getting older.
Mike Shrader February 28, 2012 at 05:00 AM
sjcnative1 obviously does not understand the "ADA" law and the concept of reasonable accommodation. No one is insulting individuals in a wheelchair or anyone with special needs. The question regarding the "non-motorized" parade is not about only accommodating people in wheelchairs it is about finding ways to "accommodate anyone" with any number of special needs. Again, what part of "non-motorized" do you not undestand! The issue legally is about acommodation, NOT allowing a "motorized" wheelchair.
sjcnative1 February 28, 2012 at 07:36 AM
Unfortunately, I am very familiar with the ADA law. Reasonable accomodation does not apply to this instance. These are not people who are trying to climb Mt. Whitney or the backside of Half Dome in a motorized wheelchair. These are human beings. I hope it is obvious to you that the streets in our town have already been built to accomodate motorized wheelchairs. No modifications or money needs to be spent to accomodate a motorized wheelchair. None. That is why the "concept" of reasonable accomodation does not apply here. No physical changes need to be made to anything. None. No money spent to accomodate anyone in a motorized wheelchair. Not everyone in this world is lucky enough to not be in a wheelchair. I hope that you would respect that they too would like and deserve to be in a parade just as you do. They live in this town and pay taxes just as you and I do. I hope you would honor their wishes.
Donna Taylor February 28, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Folks, PLEASE, read the article and Penny's comments. The Fiesta Association NEVER told anyone that they could not participate in their parade based upon their disability. Never, ever! So quit misrepresenting them and this `issue'. All they did was to offer alternate modes of transportation (at their expense) to the individual involved in an attempt to get him to `go along' whit the tradition of this 50+ year old non-motorized' event. When he refused their offers, they met and immediately issued an exception allowing him and his motorized wheelchair in the parade. Period (what should be) ... end of story. I do leave this topic with just one comment... Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
Donna Taylor February 28, 2012 at 10:24 PM
@ sjcnative1 - A 'permit' is required for every entrant in this (and most every other) parade, Which has absolutely nothing to do w/ "the Fiesta Association not following the ADA". As far as the `waiver' goes, that process is completely w/in their right and the law, any law. Rarely do I run across someone as closed-minded and non-understanding as you. I would think the FA not all that upset about missing your smiling, participative face in their meetings. BTW... Why do you hide behind the `sjcnative1' moniker?
sjcnative1 February 29, 2012 at 05:32 PM
A waiver is discriminatory against a class of people. Specifically, those in wheelchairs. That is called discrimination which is illegal. It has nothing to do with being closed minded or non-understanding. As you have asked previously, I have provided to the ADA laws that pertain and quoted to you that section. You are stating that it is completely within the law, any law. Can you please back up your statement with which law that is. I quoted the section of the ADA for you. Thank you.
Matt Gaffney February 29, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Why DO you hide behind the moniker "sjcnative1?"
Penny Arévalo (Editor) February 29, 2012 at 07:21 PM
We do allow anonymous posting here at Patch. Also, (just a guess) because "sjcnative" was already taken.
sjcnative1 February 29, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Penny is correct. Matt, there are other people who are native to this town besides yourself.
Matt Gaffney February 29, 2012 at 10:26 PM
That still doesn't answer the question. I'm not afraid to post my thoughts & feelings under my name.
sjcnative1 February 29, 2012 at 10:45 PM
The question was already answered in the post right above yours. Posts are not required to be in your name.
Matt Gaffney February 29, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Erica Cox March 01, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Wow - many people don't have a heart. Been here for over 25 years and my son used to ride with the Shea center every year, and now my daughter is in every year with the YMCA and I'm kind of ashamed that people in SJC have the nerve to not allow a disabled person the dignity of getting themselves down the street in a parade without having to be pushed by someone else. You really want to take away someone's self worth and dignity by "accomodating" and hiding them in the parade for the sake of staying "non motorized"? I think, just for a moment, some of you need to imagine what it is like for them and roll in their shoes for a day.
Steve Behmerwohld March 01, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Matt, I'm guessing that SJCNative is related to sjcnative1 and they are affiliated with SouthOCNative (who used to be Rick Lyons), NONE of which have the huevos to use their real name. I think people who post under any name other than their own are no different than kids who write grafitti.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) March 01, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Guys, until Patch policy changes, it's allowed. Try to discuss the topic and not each other. Thanks!
concerned parent March 01, 2012 at 01:03 AM
How sad that "tradition" trumps the rights of individuals in some minds. Do the parade organizers have any idea how narrow-minded this makes them look, at least to someone who's a neutral observer? (I don't live in SJC, I'm not disabled, and I don't know any of the parties involved.)
Donna Taylor March 01, 2012 at 01:08 AM
I wasn't going to comment further on this closed 'non-issue' but it seems that some continue to disregard the facts and go immediately to their own agenda. It was NEVER about not allowing "a disabled person the dignity of getting themselves down the street in a parade without having to be pushed by someone else." It was (and is) about the tradition and heritage of the Parade, which has NOTHING to do w/ any form of discrimination, unless you are a motor. As far as I can tell, the FA was (and remains) in hopes that any & all participants would respect and cherish the tradition of the Swallows Day celebration and the Parade, joining the others in the spirit of the event. It's too bad that in this case, that did not happen, but the law and individual rights are to be respected regardless of tradition so... they changed their Parade rules to make sure the 'non-motorized' rule wasn't specific to wheelchairs and welcomed this individual to participate in the Parade. That was sooo last week... Time to MOVE ON... I will again close w/ my same comment... Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
Eric March 01, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Donna Taylor, I admire your thought pattern. The rest of you,too, but especially Donna.
Steve Behmerwohld March 01, 2012 at 03:01 AM
@ Penny, yes Ma'm.
SJCNative March 01, 2012 at 04:24 PM
I don't know who he/she sjcnative1 is. However, I do agree with his/her view points.


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