Disability Rights are Civil Rights

We have learned of the sad events of Saturday March 11th, 2023 at Sullivan’s Irish Pub, wherein an individual chose to push an unoccupied wheelchair down stairs at Sullivan’s Irish Pub.  Community Resources for Independence resolutely condemns this terrible crime, and we condemn the sad insensitivity and dark ignorance that led to it.

To the young athlete, the young student, who chose to push an unoccupied wheelchair down the stairs:  We’ve seen the videos.  We’ve seen the public apologies and we’ve seen the public statements, and we’re sure you have learned and grown a lot in the last few days as a result of your choice.  You need to be held accountable for your intentional actions, and we support learning and growing as human beings.

You probably have been a hockey player all of your young life.  You may continue to play hockey for the rest of your life.  You will need skates.  They’re part of the equipment.

In light of Saturday’s choice, we encourage you to try to play your hockey game without your skates.

You may not be very successful in that game, and you may become frustrated with your limitations, and you may wish to be better able to keep up with the other skaters.  Skates enable you to be in the game.

A wheelchair, to a person with a mobility impairment, enables you to be in the game, so to speak, but this for this person, this is the game of life, and not merely intercollegiate entertainment – a game.

  • This wheelchair represents freedom of movement and independence.
  • This wheelchair is a tool for self-reliance and doing things for oneself.
  • This wheelchair enables some level of equality and civil rights in a person.
  • This wheelchair is key to being involved in one’s community, social events, work, family, and friends.

Make no mistake, this wheelchair does not define the person who uses it, no more than the hammer defines the carpenter who wields it.  This wheelchair enables that person to define themselves and to be the person they want to be.


Pa. woman whose wheelchair was shoved down stairs by student athletes lost legs in car wreck – Penn Live

Mercyhurst student-athlete goes viral after pushing wheelchair down a flight of stairs – YourErie.com

Mercyhurst U. athletics suspends hockey player, 2 others over wheelchair incident in Erie – GoErie.com

A young person wants to be a hockey player, well that’s pretty extraordinary – but they need skates.  Some people want to do ordinary everyday things – well, they need a wheelchair.

We’ve seen the apologies and the statements.  We agree that people can learn and grow.  We agree that people can change.  We agree that you need to be accountable for your crime.  And we agree that people then can be forgiven.  Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” 

We would be happy to help you – or help anyone else – to open your eyes, open your mind, and open your heart, and understand that people with disabilities, just like anyone else, deserve common decency, respect, and dignity.

Community Resources for Independence would be glad to help you to learn and grow.  Our doors are open to you and to others interested in a better understanding of life with disabilities.  Please contact us at 1-800-530-5541.

To the woman who was wronged.
We are here for you.  Our Erie Center for Independent Living staff are here to support you.  If you would like, please contact us at 1-800-530-5541.

To Our Community.
We condemn this young person’s actions and insensitive crime. Disability rights are Civil Rights: equal access, equal opportunity, and equal treatment lead to simple human dignity.  From this dark event of Saturday night, we hope light will drive out hate and indifference.  We hope that light will shine upon the truth that people with disabilities deserve dignity.

We ask you to be the light for disability civil rights.


Carl Berry, Executive Director
Community Resources for Independence, Inc.

3410 West 12th Street
Erie PA 16505

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