Broadcaster with Disabilities Files Complaint Against VCU

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Shane Donaldson, the University of Rhode Island athletics official denied access to radio broadcast facilities at Virginia Commonwealth, has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Donaldson, URI's associate athletic director for communication and new media, is requesting a further inquiry into the incident that took place at a men’s basketball game earlier this month. Donaldson, who has cerebral palsy, was prevented from participating in a radio broadcast at the Siegel Center, the on-campus home of VCU basketball, because he didn't feel comfortable using a stepladder to clear a railing behind the broadcast area and VCU couldn't move the broadcast team to a new location in time for the game's tipoff.

Related: VCU Apologizes for Broadcast Facility's Inaccessibility 

“I said that I felt a responsibility to kind of follow-through in this situation,” Donaldson said on Thursday, as reported by The Providence Journal. “If I’m not willing to speak up and advocate on my own when something had directly impacted me, then I don’t feel I could ever expect anybody else to advocate for anything.” 

Donaldson contacted the department’s Civil Rights Division via its website, starting a process he hopes will result in a meaningful change, the Journal reported.. The complaint alleges Donaldson’s rights were violated in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As the the Journal's Bill Koch described, URI visited VCU for a Feb. 8 tip and Donaldson — who also serves as the lead media contact for men’s basketball — was set to join play-by-play broadcaster Stone Freeman for the radio call. The media setup was at the rear of the venue’s lower seating bowl. A step ladder was placed alongside metal fencing to access the raised platform.

Donaldson said he knew immediately he wouldn’t be able to reach his assigned seat. VCU said in a later statement that venue staff “offered accommodations” for Donaldson to participate from an alternate location. Donaldson said the following day he was “beyond that point of accepting them.”

Standard contact information and up to a 500-word summary of the incident were requested prior to formally filing.

“I want to be a person of my word,” said Donaldson, who claims to have the full backing of the URI athletic department. “I was going to try to do something to bring this forward. I guess in my efforts this is the next step — or the step — for me. We’ll see what it means.

“If I don’t speak up, then I can never ask someone else to do it either. It’s just one of those things. I don’t want to be dealing with this, but sometimes life, in general, has a bigger cause for you. For the moment that’s what this is.” 

Donaldson said the DOJ would review the complaint and decide whether or not to proceed. He could also be directed to another government agency, a local aid organization or a private attorney. Donaldson said he hasn’t considered whether or not to take formal legal action against VCU. 

“At the end of the day, I’m just hoping it helps increase thoughtfulness,” Donaldson said. “When people are thinking, ‘Have we created the best possible situation?’ You want it to be an actual thought. At least that’s what I’m hoping for.” 

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