Story by Cassandra Brandt
Photos by Loren Worthington
Gina Schuh can still hear the sharp crack of her neck breaking as her head hit the bottom of the pool, the result of a dive gone awry.
Suddenly living with quadriplegia at 18 years old, the aspiring chef had to change careers before even starting. Schuh still expressed her love of food through her blog, the Culinary Quad, a mix of recipes and restaurant reviews that emphasized accessibility as much as cuisine. However, the colorful food scene was overshadowed by a bitter experience: ADA violations.
“I was shocked to see that my rights were being trampled every day,” Schuh said.
Vowing to fix misused parking and inaccessible buildings for herself and her community, she went to law school and studied the ADA from the inside out.
“We got played in the ‘90s,” Schuh said, referring to the time in which the ADA was written. “The way it reads puts the responsibility of initiating the issue of non-compliance on people with disabilities rather than the non-compliant business.”
Schuh received her law degree from Summit Law School at 28 and since has grown into a tenacious and vocal activist. Now 32, Schuh started Accessible Arizona last year, lobbied the state legislature on accessibility issues in the last session and created a formidable social media presence with her Facebook page, Gina is on a Roll.
Schuh’s ideas are creative and unconventional—and sometimes contrary to mainstream advocacy organizations. As a result, Schuh is starting bold conversations within the community. Her legislative priorities include creating ADA-compliance officers to monitor accessibility compliance and incentivizing developers to build barrier-free bathrooms in multi-family homes.
To kick off this agenda, Accessible Arizona is sponsoring “Roll on Arizona’s Capital” slated for Jan. 22.
“Accessible Arizona is offering you a platform and a microphone. Don’t pass up the opportunity,” Schuh said. “We hope the meeting results in positive changes for the disabled community and meets a few big goals of Accessible Arizona.” These goals include the compliance program and increasing barrier-free bathrooms in multi-family dwellings.
Creosote Partners, a lobbying firm, partnered with Schuh’s young organization to bring it to fruition.
“We are excited to support Gina’s efforts to bring the National Roll on the Capitol to Arizona,” Creosote partner Sam Richards said. “Her energy, passion and lived experience are sure to make an impact on lawmakers.”
Visit AccessibleAZ.org for more information.
Cassandra Brandt is a freelance writer with a BA in Sociology. A single mom from Arizona, she was a traveling ironworker before her 2015 injury which left her a quadriplegic.