Thursday, November 19, 2015

A letter to my fellow attorneys

Dear Colleague,

My name is Rafal "Ralph" Strzalkowski. If you happen to practice in Gainesville, as I do, you may recognize me from my bright yellow wheelchair in which I travel all around town. In 2013, I started a nonprofit, a 501(c)(3) charity -- Florida Disability Access and Awareness Foundation – to foster greater empathy and inclusion for people with disabilities in the community where I live and work and beyond.
This Foundation is my attempt to address problems that I could not easily overcome as an individual, even with my advanced law degrees. Every day, I encounter misunderstandings – expressed in stares, flawed assumptions, and a range of prejudices – with people who do not know me. My Foundation also draws attention to physical impediments to access for the disability community in public places. I want people to understand that the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act are not just technicalities, but have human stories – much like my own -- attached to them. Every day, people just like me are able to live their lives more fully as a result of the ADA, including not only due to the letter of this federal law but also its spirit -- to open doors, hearts and minds to those of us with disabilities.
For all of these reasons, I invite you to support our programs as we expand throughout Florida. Over the summer, we launched Wheelchaired for a Day – the Foundation’s pilot program, which allowed able-bodied people, like you, to spend twenty four hours in a wheelchair and record their experiences. Those who participated in Gainesville included attorneys and other business owners, public officials and many more. They each came back with a lot of insight, which helped me to realize that the Wheelchaired Challenge needs to continue and expand in a structured way.
To learn more, please review the local news report here, which features a personal-injury attorney, Dan Vazquez – of the firm Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano -- going about his daily duties while confined to a wheelchair.
If you would like to participate in the Wheelchaired for a Day Challenge in your community, and show your solidarity with wheelchair users where you live -- please email challenge@wheelchairedforaday.org  To make a tax-deductible donation to FDAAF, please click here
Meanwhile, please plan to join me for Wheelchairs and Cocktails fundraiser -- Wed., Nov. 18, 6 pm to 8 pm, at Rockeys Piano Bar, 112 S. Main St., Gainesville, Fla. We will be screening a short documentary about the Wheelchair Challenge and will also announce our next project, a smartphone application to detail and map accessibility problems and solutions.  RSVP
I look forward to meeting you on Nov. 18!
Kind regards,
R. StrzaƂkowski, Esq, LLM, JD
President, Florida Disability Access and Awareness Foundation and Attorney at Law
Member of Florida and DC Bar



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