Concerned parent is pushing for better wheelchair access at local school field

Local parent wants better access to practices

BAKERSFIELD - A Bakersfield man shot five times at a nightclub and now confined to a wheelchair is facing a new challenge.  He’s taking on a local school district and a youth football league for better access to games.

The season for the Golden Empire Youth Football League is about to end, but for one concerned parent a new fight is about to begin as he works to get better access to his son’s football practices.

This is 9-year-old Deon Williams, Jr’s first year playing in the league.

"You get to tackle people and throw the fastest,” he said.

He notices the difference when his father isn’t nearby.

"I can't hear him when I'm on the other side of the field," said Williams, Jr.

Deon Williams, Sr. wants people who are disabled to have better access watching their children play football.

"Just like every other parent, I want to be there.  I want to be there if something happens.  I want to be there at his side so; he can see me and feel comfortable," said Williams, Sr.

In 2009, he was shot three times in the back and twice in the leg as he left a local nightclub.  Williams now uses a wheelchair to get around, but many times he’s unable to access certain places such as his son’s practices.

"I was on this outside gate, a little bit down from a tree right there, watching through the fence," he said.

The league uses the field at Discovery Elementary School.  The gate used for practice is always open to the community, but its design makes it difficult for Williams to access.  He says the other gate that is wheelchair accessible closes too early.

"They told me I wouldn't be able to go in.  One of the coaches had let me in once and the janitor locked me in.  They had to carry me through the fence.  I had scrapped my foot," he said.

The league is working to help accommodate Williams.  For the first time in several weeks the gates stayed open, long enough for Williams to watch his son play football, but he hopes more will be done.

"With anything that they allow parents to come in or teams to play, they should always have wheelchair accessibility," he said.

Williams hopes to continue working with the league, getting the chance to cheer for his son, like many parents, from the sidelines.

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