Archer's Challenge Takes Disability Awareness Citywide
Foundation launches citywide fundraiser to benefit Rosedale School
By David Lemon,
4:55PM, Fri. Oct. 7, 2016
Imagine you are about to enter a building. You reach for the handle as it begins to rain, but operating the door proves impossible because of your limited mobility. This was the challenge Archer Hadley faced one pivotal day at Austin High.
Beginning Monday Austinites will participate in Archer’s Challenge, a weeklong event dedicated to promoting awareness for the needs of the disabled community. Volunteers spend their day – be it at work or school – in a wheelchair, to support the efforts of the Archer’s Challenge Foundation and raise funds for Austin ISD’s Rosedale School.
Founder Archer Hadley began the challenge after being left in the rain, unable to open the doors to the school building. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy early in his life, Archer realized that changes needed to be made. Starting small, he challenged fellow students to spend their school day in a wheelchair, and aimed to raise enough money to install three push-button automatic doors at Austin High. Ultimately, his challenge raised over $110,000, enough to install special automatic doors in five local schools. Now a student at UT Austin, Archer has transformed his high school challenge into a nonprofit foundation and garnered the support of top city and state officials.
I caught up with Archer via email to discuss the impact of the challenge and the foundation’s future. As with any new endeavor, Archer tempered his expectations during his initial challenge at Austin High. “Both my mom and I thought we’d be really lucky to get that one campaign completed, put in a few doors and that would be it,” Archer explains. Turns out that was just the beginning.
Unfortunately, the nature of the challenge – able-bodied people in a wheelchair – has been met with some backlash from members of the disabled community. Archer finds that attitude to be frustrating saying, “we exist to empower the disability community.” He counters that his foundation’s goals are to “inspire others (of all abilities), increase accessibility, foster community, and create awareness.”
With sponsorship from H-E-B, and city support from Mayor Steve Adler, the citywide challenge begins Monday morning and continues through Saturday. Each day will see participation from members of local business and institutions from members of the media to UT Austin faculty and students to Austin city and state officials. Proceeds from next week’s challenge will benefit Rosedale School, which is dedicated to supporting families who have children with severe special needs. Austinites can register to participate or make a donation at www.archerschallenge.com.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted back in 1990 and designed to accommodate the needs of disabled people in public spaces. How did Austin High, and other public spaces, go so long without automatic doors? More importantly, what can be done? “The best way to enact changes,” Archer says, “is to tackle obstacles head on without fear, reservation, or doubt.”