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    12th April 2012

    On JT the Brick for Swim With Mike tonight…

    Tonight I’m doing a call-in “appearance” to talk about Swim With Mike on JT the Brick, a nationally syndicated sports talk show, at 10:45 PST (11:45 MST). If you’re in LA you can listen at AM 570, Fox Sports Radio; if you’re in Colorado you can hear the show on 104.3 the fan!

    And I would love if someone recorded it somehow, but no pressure internet.

    #32nd Annual Swim With Mike

    12th March 2012

    Elevator access…

    Living in a big city with a lot of history and older buildings, and going to a school with a lot of history and older buildings is a little bit different than living on the Front Range of Colorado. Most public buildings, restaurants, and schools in the Loveland-Fort Collins area were built relatively recently and generally have accessible entrances and sensible planned elevator placements.

    This is not the case in Los Angeles or at USC. I don’t necessarily want to deface historic buildings with cool architecture, and there would be prohibitive costs to updating other buildings in ways that made the building more universally accessible. However, sometimes there are some things that could be done differently that would make things easier for people with access issues. I’m planning on writing a few posts about these in the near future, but I’ll start with one that is more or less already written for me.

    The Lyon Center is USC’s recreation center/gym for students. It was built in the 1989 next to the McDonald’s Olympic Swim Stadium. The pool is incredible and I have loved swimming in both the 50 meter competition pool and the 25 yard diving pool. However, the Lyon Center itself has a few access issues. For one thing, entering the center on the main floor, there is a single width turnstyle for entering and then several doors for exiting users that are kept locked on the outside. So for a wheelchair user to enter the first floor, either a person from the desk has to go around and open the door or if a user is exiting at that moment, he or she can hold the door. That’s not so bad.

    To get to the second floor there is an elevator. However, the elevator is outside of the official entrance, in the lobby area. This summer, when I would go to the Lyon Center, the elevator would always be locked and I would have to ask someone from the desk to unlock it if I wanted to use to machines and weights upstairs. This might not seem like a big deal, but sometimes people at the desk were busy or were unable to locate the elevator key right away. And besides that, I was frustrated that I was the only user that I ever saw having to ask to use the upstairs of the facility. I talked to some of the people working at the desk one night. They explained it was policy and I tried to reason with them that the policy was not right and just – and I got a bit heated up and realized there wasn’t anything the front desk workers could do so I left a note for their supervisor with my email.

    I’m publishing the following email exchange not as a way to tarnish or damage anyone’s reputation, but for the sake of learning from one another. I understand and respect the position of the people I interacted with concerning this situation, but I think it is interesting because it shows the lack of understanding and awareness for the general public when it comes to accessibility issues. It also gives part of my position in regards to access and why equal and independently achieved access is so important.

    Here is the email I received after leaving the note:

    Hi Daryl,

    I received a note from one of my staff members about the elevator access. We have to lock the elevator in the up position during business hours because it allows direct access to our second floor. Hence we have no way to control who uses the elevator to gain access to the facility. That is why we lock the elevator unless we have a member who needs to utilize it. I hope this helps answer your question and apologize for the inconvenience. If you ever need access, just let one of our staff members know and they’d be happy to help you. Thank you.

    Brendan Gail
    Assistant Director, Recreational Sports

    My (delayed) response to this email:


    I’m surprised I never replied to this message when I received it a few months back. I appreciate the information about elevator access at the Lyon Center – however, I have to respectfully question whether there isn’t a better solution to this issue. I was actually quite surprised, as a new graduate student at USC, to find this situation with the elevator in the recreation center, especially since USC is the host institution for the Swim With Mike program and has had so many SWM recipients. I’m not saying that this is an egregious piece of discrimination, but it is a blatant inequality. Only students who require elevator use have to ask to go to the second floor – and then wait while a staff member finds the elevator key. Since you have never been in this situation, you might not realize that access issues confront wheelchair users everywhere they go, creating a feeling of second-class citizenship. Certainly an institution like USC would want to be on the front lines creating
    an equal-access environment for as many students as possible. A tenet of education in America today is that “separate is not equal,” and it doesn’t seem as though I should have to ask to go upstairs at the Lyon Center when no other student would ever have to do the same.

    If the situation doesn’t change I will still continue to use the Lyon Center – think of this message as a suggestion of something to look into that could improve the experience of a small group of students. I’m not sure what a good solution would be to this problem, but one idea would be to issue elevator passes to students or other Lyon Center users who require elevator access and request them.

    I also have one other suggestion for the Lyon Center. It could be beneficial to the student population as a whole have one or two pieces of cardio equipment that could be utilized by non-ambulatory students, such as an upper body ergometer or stationary handcycle. These could benefit not only students who are not able to use the other cardio machines such as treadmills or ellipticals, but also other students who are rehabbing from injury or who want to do a cross-training workout.

    Thank you for your consideration,

    Daryl Holmlund

    The response that I got back, after my email apparently made its way to a different level of management:


    First of all, I want you to know that the reason we keep the elevator in the locked position is for “safety”. As Brendan has mentioned to you in his email, we have had some unfortunate situations with non USC students gaining access to the facilities through the facilities. Having said that, you have made a very valid point. Our intent is never to make anyone unwelcome or have the feeling of inequality.

    Moving forward, my suggestion is for anyone who needs the use of the elevator to check out the key with his/her ID from our Membership and/or Facilities staff. I will work with the Facilities Management Services staff to see the possibilities of installing a card swipe system for the elevator.
    Please let me know if you have any other suggestions and we will work together to resolve it.
    Thank you.

    Arvin Varma
    Project Administrator Youth Programs
    Associate Director
    USC Recreational Sports

    I would like to say that I have seen the new cardio equipment that was ordered, but I haven’t. And I would love to say that a card swipe had been installed for the elevator. It hasn’t.

    But, on the other hand, the elevator hasn’t ever been locked anytime I’ve been to the Lyon Center during this school year. I’m not sure if giving up security for accessibility is a 100% win, but perhaps they realized that the security issue was easily taken care of by having attentive desk workers, while the accessibility issue was also easily resolved (for me, at least) by leaving the elevator unlocked. I know there are several other wheelchair users who occasionally use the Lyon Center, but more importantly, it will hopefully mean better access for the students who will be coming in the future.

    27th November 2011

    USC-UCLA game videos

    I finished some classes this weekend – hopefully even passing them! I also went to the USC-UCLA football game, and while there, I did a little video experimentation. Check out the videos below to see a little bit of what goes on game day at USC.

    18th November 2011


    It’s almost Thanksgiving week and I’m in the middle of a lot schoolwork – or at least I’m trying to stay focused because the quarter for the MAT program ends the Sunday after Thanksgiving. But it is hard to stay focused with so many interesting and exciting opportunities. I have friends going to Las Vegas this weekend and friends going out and other friends going to the ocean or Hollywood. And there are people asking me for help – on of the occupational therapy professors asked me to come teach wheelchair skills to the grad students in her class, and then other OT students wanting to interview me for their projects.

    And there are things that I need to do to take care of myself, like get in a swim every once in awhile, or ride my handcycle (I set it up indoors – video/post to come soon), or go grocery shopping because I have no healthy food in my cupboards or fridge right now and I’ve eaten out 3 times this week because I’ve been so busy between going to the high school, the USC health science campus for the above mentioned wheelchair skills teaching, and my own classes at the AT&T Center downtown and I haven’t gotten to that grocery store so I don’t have enough variety to pack both lunch and dinner.

    Oh, and I just am not really that excited about some of the assignments we have at the moment. They’re ok. But only one of them gets me really excited – a case study of a particular student – and I can’t tell the world anything about that one!

    And this time of year I also tend to think about some other things. As part of my time with the OT classes this week I took time to tell them a little about my story and showed them some pictures of me before November 24, 2004, and a few pictures of myself in the hospital and after. I get to talk to people about myself a lot, both formally and informally. I’m always thankful for the opportunities because I generally come away from the encounters thankful for life and for how far I’ve come, the abilities that I have, and all the things I have done and will do, God willing.

    It also makes me miss my family. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and I think about them often. But all of the above mentioned activities generally keep me from really missing… home. This post really got started as a playlist that I was going to give you guys based around the word and idea of home, but I wanted to push myself to reflect a bit more on the idea because I haven’t written much about my thoughts lately.

    “Home” for me, at the moment, is still northern Colorado, where my immediate relatives are, where I’ve spent most of my life and have the most memories, and where my soul used to commune deeply with nature. And if I pictured a personal heaven for myself, it would be an able-bodied me exploring and hanging out in northern Colorado (without a few thousand recent houses encroaching on the foothills, and probably no Centerra either, no offense to those who live in these recent developments). So many beautiful trails. Such great weather. I wouldn’t even mind the snow because I could do back country and cross country skiing – and my legs wouldn’t get all spastic in the cold.

    But I’m also starting to feel at home in southern California. I have some good friends here. I’ve found a church that I think I could go to and grow in for awhile. And I like living in a very different environment than I have ever lived in previously. I love diversity and Los Angeles is a diverse place. You could meet someone new or eat at a new restaurant or see something strange and wondrous every day for a lifetime.

    There are many facets to the idea of home, and so it is possible to be both “at home” and “not at home” at the same time. And that is how I feel right now. There are a few songs that I’ve been listening to lately that really reflect those feelings.

    “Home” by Nadia Fay (you might have heard the version of this song recorded by Girls Love Shoes that has been featured in a recent Lowe’s commercial)

    “This is Home” by Switchfoot

    “Home” by Marty Sampson of Hillsong

    “The Other Country” and “Mansions” by Burlap to Cashmere

    “The Other Country” reminded me – I’m not sure exactly what about it, vocal quality and a little ramp up chord progression maybe – a lot of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” which also should be on this playlist (it actually seems like a mix of “Tupelo Honey” and “Into the Mystic”)


    10th August 2010

    BAGS FLY FREE… wheelchairs, too, but no promises about whether it’ll get there in one piece…

    Last weekend I went to Seattle. My girlfriend’s parents live there and a few of her friends were getting married.

    (Some of you reading this – if there are any people reading it – might not believe that I really have a girlfriend, but I do.

    i have a girlfriend!

    i have a girlfriend!

    further proof that I didn't just steal a picture of some random girl and pretend she was my girlfriend

    further proof that I didn't just steal a picture of some random girl and pretend she was my girlfriend

    Her name is Mikaela and she’s awesome.)

    We flew out Thursday evening and then we had fun at her parents’ house hanging with her family, saw some of her friends, went lake kayaking and Wii bowling, and I Friday night I shared a bed with one of the grooms to be as he was also staying at Mikaela’s parents’ place that night. Saturday we went to two weddings back to back. The weddings were beautiful and even when we got lost en route to wedding number two we were able to make it there before it started thanks to a rain delay (surprise, surprise – that is the risk you take when planning an outdoor wedding in Seattle).

    playing with my camera in low light at a lovely wedding

    playing with my camera in low light at a lovely wedding

    We got back to the house at midnight Saturday night/Sunday morning, slept for a few hours, and then got up and headed to t he airport to fly back to Denver.

    Now let me back up just a little bit: When we arrived in Seattle one of the wheels on my wheelchair was a bit bent and wobbly but I wasn’t really sure what was wrong. I figured it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle and I would file a complaint with the airline on my way back to Denver to see if they would help me.

    Throughout the trip the loose wheel became increasingly annoying as it was rubbing against the sideguards on my chair so that I didn’t get much glide from each push. But I still figured I would make it back to Denver and either talk to the airline or just find someone who could repair it.

    So we had a wonderful weekend and then headed home. When we got to Denver I waited on the plane while they brought my wheelchair up from the baggage compartment. Once they brought it up I put my seat cushion on and headed up the jetway. Now it was obvious that there was a lot more wobble and bend to my wheel. As soon as we got into the terminal I started heading towards the airline desk to make a complaint about my damaged wheelchair.

    However, as I moved that way, the end of the camber tube, where the wheel axles are secured, broke off on the one side. That troublesome wheel was no longer attached to my wheelchair and I was spilled onto the ground in a busy airport terminal. Several men jumped over and attempted to assist me, but I asked them to allow me to sort my situation out first.

    Sitting there on the floor I saw a security officer. I politely got her attention and asked if she could bring me one of the airport wheelchairs so I could get over to the desk to make a complaint. No, she said, I only screen passengers. Only the airlines can give a passenger a wheelchair.

    Ok, said I. So I’m just going to crawl over to that desk there and see if I can find some help.

    I said this slowly and deliberately so she would be sure to understand it.

    She stared at me.

    I crawled to the desk, pulled myself up to standing so I could talk to the airline representative. He thought I was joking.

    I most certainly was not. My wheel fell off causing me to spill myself out into a crowded terminal full of people who were then staring at me. You think I’m joking?!

    Maybe they still do think I’m joking. I eventually made it to baggage claims to make a report, but because my chair was broken I had to be pushed on one of those people moving non-wheelchairs that big guys push grandma and grandpa through the airport in. They promised to send my chair to a repair shop in the morning and then sent me home with one of the big old clunkers from the airport – heavy, awkward to maneuver, unsightly. This is what grandma and grandpa are pushed around in at the retirement home. Or as one of my friends said on seeing it: It looks like it was stolen from a geriatric ward… in the 1970s.

    I tried to let them know that this was an unacceptable loan chair for me to use and that I needed a new one immediately. Apparently they thought I was joking again because, even though they promised to have a better rental chair the next day, it has already been 2 days+ and they said they might not have anything better until Thursday and that the parts they needed to order for my broken axle/camber tube would take a week or more to get to CO.

    The result of course is this: I’m writing a blog entry because A) this is an interesting and funny story that I think you readers out there will enjoy; and B) with this wheelchair that I can hardly get into my car and cannot easily get around in most places, I’m not going to go anywhere right now… why not write a quick little blog entry?

    I’ll keep you posted on the outcome of this debacle. The airline does not seem realize what an inconvencience for a person like me to not have a light, custom-fitted wheelchair. It’s like if they broke someone’s legs on a flight and then to make up for it said, Here, have some crutches so you can get around while your bones heal up. Sure you can still get around, but you’re not going anywhere fast – and you won’t be able to do many of the active things you would otherwise be able to do!

    I’ll be calling them again tomorrow to try to advise them on how much of a pain this really is for me.

    When I have more news I’ll update here. In the meantime, enjoy this picture of the sweet new ride the airline gave me…

    the sweet wheelchair that the airline gave me

    the sweet wheelchair that the airline gave me

    Copyright 2005 by Daryl Holmlund - All rights reserved.