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 firstname.lastname@example.orgTo 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!
R. Strzałkowski, Esq, LLM, JD
President, Florida Disability Access and Awareness Foundation and Attorney at Law
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