Wheelin' Gator, Fights To Sit In The Student Section
GAINESVILLE - In all kinds of weather we all stick together. While there is room in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for gator fans with physical disabilities, at least one gator student with a physical disability wants a place with his buddies. One student is trying to change his view at the game and how others view him.
When you think of your first football game, you don't just remember the players and the stadium you were in, but the people you were there with. This is why one "Wheelin' Gator" is trying so hard to grab a seat with the rest of the student fans.
Billy Macconel is a senior studying telecommunications at the University of Florida. He says he hasn't missed one football game during his time at UF. Macconel was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at birth. It's a condition affecting his brain that has shut down parts of his body. And while this die-hard fan gets to enjoy every game, he does so from the accessible seating section. A section that is also reserved for alumni and non-student fans, sometimes including the fans of the opposing team.
Billy Macconel said, "No body wants to hang out over there with the old people... Or the alumni, I should say." Macconel thinks the section designated for disabled students has a great view of the game; it's not the same without his friends.
This is why he has created a Facebook page, "Wheelin Gator," to bring awareness to the issue and started a petition asking the University Athletic Association to do something about it. He even had a couple of friends help him make a music video.
Lisa Crisalli, an Occupational Therapist and Wheel Chair Seating Specialist with UF Health Rehab says, accommodating Maconnel's request helps society head in the right direction. "They are people and they should be able to access everything like everyone else. Just because they have a physical limitation doesn't mean that they shouldn't be able to," Crisalli said.
While Macconel graduates next May, he hopes he can make a change that others just like him can also benefit from. "Even if the seats aren't as great... It would mean a whole lot more for me to be over there," Macconel said.
While we could not speak to the University Athletic Association on camera, spokesperson Steve McClain says that they do work hand in hand with UF's ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Compliance Office to ensure that they follow federal legislation to make reasonable accomodations.