Braille Monitor                                                                                February 1986



Of Horses and Sensitivity

Homer Page is a member of the City Council of Boulder, Colorado. In fact, at the time of this writing (December 11, 1985) he is the front runner in the race to be Mayor. At the last election he received more votes than any other member of the City Council.

The city of Boulder controls certain "open spaces," which are set aside for the use of the general public. One of the organizations which has a franchise from the city to operate on the land encompassed in the "open spaces" is the Boulder Valley Ranch. Therefore, in the normal course of human events personnel at the Boulder Valley Ranch would likely be on their best behavior should a member of the City Council come for a horseback ride. However, perhaps it did not occur to them that a blind man could be a member of the City Council--and so it might be custodialism as usual.

But times they are a changing. Some would doubtless call it militancy.

Others would recognize it as the raising of conscience and consciousness, growing self-awareness, one more evidence of the movement of the blind toward equal status and first-class citizenship:

Boulder, Colorado
August 5, 1985

Jim Crain, Director
Real Estate and Open Space
Boulder, Colorado

Dear Mr. Crain:

I am writing to inquire concerning provisions in the Boulder Valley Ranch contract with the City of Boulder. I am specifically concerned about provisions which govern relationships between the franchise holder and the public. I would also like to know when the contract comes up for renewal and under what conditions the current contract may be terminated.

My inquiry arises out of the experience which members of the National Federation of the Blind, including myself, had on Saturday, August 3rd while trying to use the ranch facilities and services. Approximately fifteen NFB members had arranged in advance to horseback ride at the ranch. The general attitude of the personnel was surly and condescending. The individual, a person who gave his name as Dave, who appeared to be the supervisor of the horseback riding program, began by announcing that he had selected the most gentle horses for the blind people who were there to ride. He was very rude in the way that he addressed people and pulled them around to "put" them on the horses. His comments to other ranch personnel who were involved with the horses indicated that he had little more concern for the feelings of the blind people who were his customers than he did for the horses.

It is my custom when horseback riding to take my cane along with me. I do this because if during the ride I have to dismount, I will be able to move efficiently while dismounted. This is an issue of safety and security for a blind person. Two years ago the City Council and the Parks and Open Space Boards took a tour of the land south of Chautauqua Park. We used horses, which I believe were rented from the Boulder Valley Ranch. Many members of the three above mentioned bodies, as well as city staff, went on this tour. It proved to be quite useful, because we did dismount from time to time. Neither my horse nor any of the others were bothered in the least by the cane I carried in my hand. I relate this incident because when I mounted my horse on Saturday, August 3rd, at the Boulder Valley Ranch, Dave insisted that I should not carry my cane. Even though I attempted to explain to him why it was important to me to have it, he insisted in the most rude and condescending terms. He became quite irrational. He yelled at the top of his voice and refused even to listen. Finally, I agreed to give up my cane, because I felt that it was essential that I accompany the other NFB members on the ride. The competence of the staff which had been demonstrated led me to believe that the safety and certainly the dignity of those going on this ride was in jeopardy, and certainly the staff required careful monitoring.

As it turned out, had I had my cane I would have dismounted. Our group was required to stop while another passed. We stopped in an area surrounded by a prairie dog town. The horse that I was riding was somewhat nervous, and I would have gotten off the animal had I had my cane. However, I was not interested in stepping into a prairie dog hole. It is precisely this type of unforeseen but rather routine occurrence that Dave and his staff, through ignorance, failed to understand and of course compromised the potential safety of those using their service.

After we had returned the group went on a ranch-sponsored hay ride. Mary, the person who seemed to be in charge of the hay ride, took it upon herself to address me as Tiger. Although I told her that I considered that to be an insulting way for her to address me, she seemed to miss the point. The point is very simple. She did not know me. To her I was just an incompetent blind man who should acquiesce in being treated like one of the horses. When I refused to submit to such treatment, she thought my behavior to be overly aggressive and hostile. I was embarrassed by the way in which these franchise holders who are operating on city-owned open space land treated my friends and me. I do not believe as things stand the current operators of the Boulder Valley Ranch deserve the privilege of operating on city-owned land. I believe that steps should be taken to insure that other people with disabilities who use this facility are treated with more respect. In many ways the operation seems to be perfectly acceptable and perhaps this glaring flaw could be erased if the current operators were to enlist the assist the assistance of the Center for People with Disabilities and the Boulder Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind to sensitize their personnel to ways in which they can better serve the needs of blind and disabled persons. Thank you for you prompt attention to this matter.

Homer Page
Boulder City Council Member

Jim Piper, City Manager
Mayor Ruth Correll and Council Members
Open Space Board of Trustees
Rex Walker, Hi County Stables Corp.
Judy Dixon, Director
Center for People with Disabilities
Marci Carpenter, President
NFB of Boulder
Diane McGeorge, President
NFB of Colorado


Boulder, Colorado
August 12, 1985

Re: Boulder Valley Ranch

Dear Homer:

Thank you for meeting with Bob Stave from Boulder Valley Ranch and myself last Thursday to discuss the incident which took place at the Ranch the preceding Saturday. City policy certainly does not condone the behavior cited in your letter of August 5, 1985. Mr. Stave agreed. And a written apology from Mr. O'Brien to you and the members of the National Federation of the Blind will be forthcoming.

I, too, remember the trail ride with City Council, Open Space Board, and Parks Parks Board several years ago when the horses were provided by Boulder Valley Ranch and you took your cane along without incident Mr. Stave has agreed to the following:

A. There will not be a repeat ever of the incident with any member of the public.

B. The Boulder Valley Ranch staff will attend a sensitivity training session on how to relate with persons with disabilities. The training will be done by Marci Carpenter, President, National Federation of the Blind, Boulder, and Judy Dixon, Director of the Center for People with Disabilities. The training will begin as soon as possible.

C. The members of the National Federation of the Blind who were present on Saturday will be invited back to Boulder Valley Ranch.

Bob Stave, Rex Walker, Dave O'Brien, and I will meet on August 15, 1985, to discuss the incident further and the sensitivity training.

Homer, I am very sorry that you were treated the way you were at Boulder Valley Ranch. You have my assurance that it was the first and last time. I hope that something positive will be gained from the incident through the sensitivity training.

Very truly yours,
James C. Crain
Real Estate /Open Space
City of Boulder

Boulder, Colorado
August 13, 1985

Dear Mr. Page:

I am writing this letter to offer my apology for the incident which happened August 3, 1985. I would also like to take this opportunity to offer my apology to the other members of the group.

Although my motivation was looking out for the safety of you and the other riders, it is clear to me that my objective could have been accomplished in a more positive way. I am sure that in the future I will strive to do better and be more sensitive to the needs of all handicapped people.

My wife would like me to add that she did not mean to be derogatory to you in any way.

If there is anything we can do to show our good feelings and faith, please feel that you can call on us.

Dave and Mary O'Brien
Boulder Valley Ranch

Boulder, Colorado
August 13, 1985

Dear Mr. Page:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the productive meeting that we had. I am sure that we will move ahead on the training session for the staff of Boulder Valley Ranch.

I have spoken with Dave and Mary O'Brien regarding the text of our meeting. They will be sending you a letter of apology soon. I believe they can see the error of the situation, but I am sure that Dave did have the safety of you and your group at heart. The sad part of this unfortunate situation is that the O'Briens, Hi County Stables Corporation, and Boulder Valley Ranch have always been proud of our work with people with handicaps. I do, however, look at this as a learning experience, one from which we at Boulder Valley Ranch will profit.

If there is anything that I can do now or in the future, please feel free to call on me.

Robert L. Stave
Boulder Valley Ranch