TAMPA, Fla. - Float after float cruised down Bayshore Boulevard for Gasparilla on Saturday.
But there was one different from all the others.
The Krewe of Sir Francis Drake was the only wheelchair accessible float designed specifically for those with special needs.
The float was unveiled during last weekend’s Gasparilla Children Parade and during Saturday afternoon’s Parade of Pirates, more of the Tampa Bay community got to see it.
On board were veterans Charles Karczewski and Ben Fitter, who had never been on a float until now.
“Accessibility has always been a problem with us in wheelchairs. To see someone go the extra mile to have this created and have it for us is wonderful,” says Karczewski.
Handicapped-accessible float debuts
Fitter, who is president of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, called it a win for disabled veterans but says they still have a long way to go.
He was present on the White House lawn when former President George H.W. Bush signed the American’s with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990.
“The ADA isn’t as enforced as the Civil Rights Act, for example, parking spaces ... the No. 1 complaint according to the ADA is lack of accessible parking for people with disabilities, and there is really no way to enforce that. But we’re working on it,” says Fitter.
People like Roland Wood and Renee Adams from the Krewe of Sir Francis Drake made it possible after they saw how difficult it was for people with disabilities to enjoy such a special Tampa tradition.
So they made it their mission to create a float where people young and old with disabilities can have a place catered to them.
“When you go down the parade route and you see people in wheelchairs, It's heart-wrenching seeing people just walk by them and they just want to participate so badly,” says Adams.
Building this float wasn't easy, It took about a year’s worth of preparations, including making a handicapped-accessible bathroom.
Adams hopes people will see how important it is to include those with special needs.
So they too have the same opportunities.