BRATTLEBORO >> A little change can go a long way towards making someone feel comfortable.
And it can start with a friendly conversation like one recently had at the Latchis Theatre.
Julie Tamler, director of the Inclusion Center, went to the venue with her son, Reuben, who uses a wheelchair. They had to navigate three hallways, one of which Tamler described as "creepy" with "dingy" walls, to get to the upstairs theater for a puppet show being put on by Sandglass Theater back in September.
"Then the elevator wasn't working," she said. "Reuben couldn't get down the stairs. That was very traumatic."
The Brattleboro Fire Department arrived and Reuben was temporarily separated from his wheel chair. He was carried by firefighters.
The incident "pretty much sent Reuben into shock," explained Tamler, who approached Latchis Arts executive director Jon Potter about what could be done to make for a more positive experience for disabled people.
"It was a big deal," Tamler said. "Jon was up for it."
"You're so cool," she told Potter on Tuesday, standing outside the room where volunteers from the Inclusion Center were painting a mural to include depictions of greenery and water .The mural was started Tuesday morning. A quote attributed to Jerry Ellis will say, "We're all only fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make."
The project is expected to take place over four days and conclude by Thursday. Then Braille lettering will be added at a later date.
"To me, this is really just what good can happen with just two organizations or people talking," Potter said. "It's totally making lemonade out of lemons for sure. There was always something in me feeling uncomfortable making handicapped people feel like second-class citizens. That didn't feel right to me."
People using wheelchairs are often required to travel through back alleys or by freight elevators, Tamler said.
"It's why people in wheelchairs don't go most places," she said. "It's scary. It's creepy."
Tamler had approached other places to make similar changes. But cost and other factors were cited for not doing them.
The Inclusion Center is run by volunteers for and by people with all kinds of disabilities. Meetings are held twice a week. Activities around art, music, videos and discussions are planned. About 30 to 40 people participate on Fridays at St. Michael's Episcopal Church and about 25 people come to the First Baptist Church on Mondays.
"We're also going to the community," said Tamler.
Requests are made to make places and events more accessible. A public service announcement was filmed by the center and shown on Brattleboro Community Television. And festivals permits through the town now have a section about being "disability friendly."
"(Tamler) helps me help other people," said Krystale Aliose, who was busy painting the wall on Tuesday. "We use our skills to do something for the community."
Pamela Wagner, who has a hidden disability, moved to Brattleboro about a year ago. She was helping Aliose with the painting.
"(Tamler) has been a tireless advocate. I don't know where I'd be without her," Wagner said. "She's a wonderful woman."
Contact Chris Mays at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.