RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) Beginning this weekend, more than 600 veterans from across the country will compete in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Richmond.
Ronald Dennis, age 67, is among them. “It’s a great, great thing,” Dennis says. “I’m really looking forward to these games.”
It’s the first time in more than 30-years that the games have returned to Richmond, where they started in 1981. However, the games have grown significantly over the years.
This year, the event will also incorporate a children’s day at the Sportsbackers Stadium on June 27th.
In response to the large crowds, GRTC has converted 25 of its buses.
But when it comes to the downtown area, many people are concerned about the cobblestone streets and historic buildings, many of which were not built to be ADA compliant.
“Since they’re grandfathered in, there’s nothing to do to get the wheelchair veterans in,” Dennis says.
However, employees with The McGuire Veteran’s hospital, which is hosting the event, have spent the past several months going door-to- door at hotels, restaurants and shops to make sure they can accommodate the athletes and their families.
“Access has been a key factor,” says Darlene Edwards.
The Richmond Convention Center will host many of the games, however several events will be held at outside venues across the city.
Edwards says wheelchair ramps have also been added to help people navigate the city.
At Sam Miller’s Restaurant in Shockoe Slip, employees say ramp access is available, as well as access to half the restaurant, which has two levels.
The Tobacco Company also has a ramp and elevators to assist athletes.
While Dennis says many athletes understand and adapt to the challenges of a historic city, he says many wheelchair- bound veterans appreciate the added accommodations.
This year’s games run June 25th-30th. To learn more information about events and accommodations, go to www.wheelchairgames.va.gov