ADA reminds us not all are mobile
August 31, 2012 1:38PM
Updated: October 4, 2012 6:05AM
This year marks the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. At any given time, one in five Americans experience some form of a disability, whether permanent or temporary.
The goal of the act is to make certain a person with a disability, whether visual, physical, mental or hearing impaired, has the same rights and access as someone who does not.
I didn’t give a lot of thought to the barriers that exist for people with disabilities until I had knee surgery and used crutches and sometimes a wheelchair to get around.
I used a wheelchair to shop at a clothing store and I got caught up in the racks of clothing because they were so close together. I wasn’t good at maneuvering the wheelchair, either.
It was a little funny, but embarrassing at the same time. Had I not been with my two sisters to make a joke of the situation, I would have been even more embarrassed and very frustrated.
Now that my mom uses a walker and needs a lot of assistance from me and others, I can better understand some of the difficulties people face as they maneuver things like clothing racks, heavy doorways and small bathrooms.
Out walking with friends recently I noticed detectable warning markers being installed by the village of Channahon between the bike path crossing the driveways of Three Rivers School and to the crosswalk between Ford Road and Chipwood Drive.
Those are the big red concrete squares with raised nodules embedded in sidewalks. The texture creates a warning for the visually impaired so they know when they are approaching a busy crossroad.
It’s a good thing they are there, because while there’s a pedestrian crossing sign along Ford Road it’s unusual for anyone to slow down for walkers or bicyclists.
The subdivision I live in had the markers installed two years ago when the curbs were reconstructed.
Newer developments already have them and as the village upgrades older sidewalks more will be installed.
Many buildings and housing developments in Channahon are less than 22 years old so they are up to date with ADA codes, said Public Works Director Ed Dolezal.
But when an employee at the municipal building had a temporary injury and required a wheelchair, they found the entrance doors, while in compliance, weren’t user friendly, he said.
“Watching that person get in and out was a chore (for them),” Dolelzol said. “We put in automatic doors a couple years ago. It makes it a lot easier.”
During the week of July 22 through 29, the village of Minooka proclaimed Accessibility Awareness Week through the Accessible Cities Alliance. The alliance is a broad-based network of community leaders, disability advocates, persons with disabilities and community representatives whose goal is to ensure full and total accessibility for all citizens.
Denise Winfrey, a past president and co-chair of the alliance, came to the village board meeting and accepted the proclamation from Minooka Village President Pat Brennan.
The village will encourage voluntary efforts to remove structural barriers within local businesses, increase compliance of laws and provide resources to those who create or need those accessibilities.
Included in that are designated parking at all village parks, safe walkways and easy access to municipal buildings.
Brennan, who worked with the United Way for nine years, said he feels lucky to have had the opportunity to have visited many agencies that serve people with disabilities.
“I learned to treat all people the same way I want to be treated,” he said.
While the American Disabilities Act is law, we can all do our part to assure that every person, with any type of disability, has the same barrier free opportunities that the rest of us take for granted.
Reach Kris Stadalsky at firstname.lastname@example.org.