Making comedy, the country more accessible

Posted 3/22/23

The Park Theater at 848 Park Ave. will be hosting a “Comedy for a Cause” event to raise funds needed to help purchase a new wheelchair accessible van for community activist Tina Pederson …

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Making comedy, the country more accessible


The Park Theater at 848 Park Ave. will be hosting a “Comedy for a Cause” event to raise funds needed to help purchase a new wheelchair accessible van for community activist Tina Pederson on Friday, March 24.

Pederson, who was appointed as a member of the National Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Access Board by President Biden on March 3 has been a one woman army in terms of increasing handicap accessibility state wide.

“As of Friday I will have been trapped in my home for 117 days,” Pederson said. “My accessible van broke down and there isn’t a way of getting people like me, who’re in a motorized wheelchair, out and about. We only have one wheelchair accessible taxi in this state and if you’re not three quarters of a mile from a bus stop you’re out of luck. I mean even if you can get to a bus stop it’s not like you can get on one in a power wheelchair.”

The RIde Paratransit program, which is the state’s only means of transportation for people with a variety of handicaps and disabilities, will only service those who are within a certain distance of a bus stop.

“Number one, I’m not three quarters of a mile from anything out here in Burrillville,” Pederson explained. “So even anyone on the outskirts of Rhode Island they’re not anywhere near a bus stop. Even if you can get access to the program it’s so expensive. It’s $4 each way and they drop and pick you up late, pick you up early, you miss half your meetings. With everything that I do in the state of Rhode Island it would cost me over $25 to $30 a day if not more.”

Despite being one of the many people with need for transportation ignored by the state's limited paratransit program, Pederson has spent years volunteering her time to help Rhode Island become more accessible to those without the mobility so many take for granted. Pederson runs her own nonprofit organization called R.A.M.P., or Real Access Motivates Progress.

“We help businesses, events and organizations find grants, tax breaks, money and learn on how to become affordably accessible,” said Pederson about her organization’s work. “This way they can let more people into their businesses. I work with all types of businesses. I also work with all of our government leaders, from our governor and lieutenant governor to our Rhode Island delegation about making the right legislation to make sure we’re putting our money towards and raising awareness to these blockers.”

One in four people have a disability that limits their accessibility, Pederson, but in this state if you count all the people who are 60 years and older, which is almost half our state at this point, 40% of them need a mobility aid. Pederson said that if we aren’t talking about accessibility then we are blocking out 30% to 40% of our population.

Since her van broke down, Pederson has been trapped in her home. The state won’t help. There is only so much help friends can provide when specialized vehicles are needed to accommodate her motorized chair. The purchase of a new accessible vehicle is necessary for Pederson to live her life and continue her work in making our state more accessible to others in her position.

“We’re hoping to raise $20,000,” said Pederson. “That would be a down payment on a vehicle, and then I could make the rest of the payments on my own. I mean even purchased used, these accessible vehicles start at $60,000. So, if we can raise a down payment that would be a success.”

Comedians Mike Murray, Tom Stewart and Andrew Haskell will take the stage and bring some laughs to the Park theater on Friday night to help Pederson raise the necessary funds to make the down payment on a vehicle, and hopefully even more.

“Everybody is trying to talk me into getting up there,” Pederson laughed. “I just won a national title and I became an overall challenge winner when I did comedy. So, everyone keeps trying to get me up there on the stage.”

Pederson said that she hopes everyone will come to see the show and support the work she’s doing. Tickets to the comedy show are $30 and can be purchased on the Park Theater’s website, or through the fundraiser’s eventbrite page. Those looking to donate without attending the show can find options for donating when purchasing tickets. Every penny earned will help not only Pederson, but accessibility for all those in Rhode Island who need it. In fact, now that Pederson is a member of a national commission, helping her cause helps those in need across the country.

comedy, park


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