Uptown Bill's celebrates the Americans with Disabilities Act

BY HOPE WILSON | JULY 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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Uptown Bill’s is a little coffee shop with a lot going on. Books for patrons to buy line the shop, a coffee counter with an assortment of treats and beverage choices sits in the back, and the surrounding wall space is covered with colorful pictures created by the shop’s regulars.

Perhaps the most notable feature of the shop, however, is what director Tom Gilsman refers to as a “listening room” type of performance venue. The space is made up by tables and chairs nestled close to a little wooden stage, above which hangs a giant movie poster from Bill — a television movie about local legend Bill Sackter, a mentally challenged man named Handicapped Iowan of the Year in 1976, for whom the shop is named. This space will serve as one of two venues for the 2013 Johnson County Americans with Disabilities Act Celebration on Saturday.

“It is important to take note of legislation that literally opened doors for American citizens,” said Combined Efforts Theater founder Janet Schlapkohl. “Everywhere, you note an awareness of accessibility.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act will celebrate its 23rd anniversary on Saturday. Signed in 1990, the act prohibits discrimination against persons suffering from varying disabilities.

Red Rock Hill guitarist and vocalist Elise Fillpot said she and the band are excited to join Uptown Bill audience members in their “recommitment” to the ADA’s principles.

“We appreciate the legislation and feel honored to be a part of this community event with others who also value this law,” Fillpot said.

Throughout the day, games, performers, speakers, and programs will be held at Chauncey Swan Park. One of the day’s highlights will include a synopsis of the play Summer Magic at the County Fair, performed by Combined Efforts Theater — Iowa’s award-winning, all-abilities performing-arts group. The day will then close out with Uptown Bill’s Saturday Night Music, featuring performances by Red Rock Hill, Pennies on the Rail, Bob the Bluesman, and Tony Alexander.

Gilsman said he is most excited about the musical portions of the event, because he believes the performing arts work as a uniting force.

“Music and art and theater are such wonderful ways to bring people together — in this case, around abilities,” he said.

The anniversary of the ADA is acknowledged each year in Iowa City. The celebrations seek to highlight the importance of including persons of all types of abilities in the community through granting accessibility to all public places.

Pam Ries, the director of REACH at the University of Iowa, said celebrating the ADA is important because it integrates persons with different abilities into all aspects of society by granting them access to schools, jobs, and public places.

“These people bring a richness that we would all be missing if we excluded them,” Ries said. “What a pity it would be if we didn’t include them. We would all lose.”

WHAT: The 2013 Johnson County ADA Celebration
WHEN: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Chauncey Swan Park and Uptown Bill’s Coffee House, 730 S. Dubuque
ADMISSION: Events at the park are free of charge. Uptown Bill’s Saturday Night Music costs $5.
EVENTS INCLUDE: Resources and games from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., performers and speakers at the park from noon-2 p.m., athletics from 1-4 p.m., and Saturday Night Music at Uptown Bill’s from 7-9 p.m.

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