Suzanne and I were honored with the opportunity to begin a dialog with Batavia’s leadership on making our city a safer, more inviting place for people living with physical disabilities.
Read Eric Schelkopf’s article in the Kane County Chronicle.
My presentation text:
Good evening and thank you for this opportunity to speak with you.
When Batavia was founded, families kept people with disabilities at home, hiding what they thought was shameful behind doors and curtains.
Today we understand that disability is no cause for shame, and we yearn for the dignity that comes with independence and purpose .
As people live longer, our community is home to ever increasing numbers of citizens with disabilities . This, combined with technologies available that make the world more accessible, put the status and needs of our public infrastructure in a new light. I commend our leaders for the steps you have already taken, my experience is that Batavia is more accessible than some other area towns I have seen. That said, there are some simple public infrastructure needs that would improve safety and access to the public life of our town. This is not the forum to present an exhaustive list but here are a few highlights . Some of our older sidewalks are rough, overgrown and impassable . Some of the new public walkways, such as on the Wilson Street bridge, were laid with rough, uneven, pavers that look nice, but shake the teeth out of a person in a wheelchair .
A few of our major intersections have buttons to activate the green walk signal, which are impossible to push, even with my nose . And yes, I did try pushing one with my nose . The push to walk buttons at the intersection of Randall and Wilson is inaccessible to people in wheelchairs . None of our major signalled crosswalks have audible signals for those with vision difficulties .
The last area I will bring up is parking lots, the most dangerous places for wheelchairs. We have several lots that force people in wheelchairs to drive, not just across, but through the driving lanes before getting up on the sidewalk . The two worst I have encountered are the strip malls where Walgreen’s and Batavia Creamery are located. Another frequent parking lot issue we have in winter is plowed snow piled up in the handicap spaces. These issues, once brought up, are very much common sense. Again, I thank you for the work you have done in making Batavia accessible and I hope this may be a continuing dialog.
Thank you for your time tonight.
Imagine you are confined to a wheelchair, but need to get into your bank or you want ice cream or you need to pick up a prescription. There is not one place in our city center which you could enter on your own to do any of those things. Currently, Steve can only enter the library and this city building on his own because of the sliding doors. As Steve said, there is not enough time here to discuss all the various impediments to accessibility in Batavia, and we hope for a continuing dialog. There is much work to do. Like most people, we were not aware of how we fail those with disabilities until ALS thrust us into this position. Now that we know, we feel it is both our responsibility and privilege to try and help make Batavia a safe, welcoming, and functional place in which ALL of our citizens are able to thrive.The Administrative Requirements under Title II of the ADA shows us the way to get this important work done. In order to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities are addressed in the programs, activities, and services operated by a public entity, a state or local government that has 50 employees or more is required to do three things:
- adopt and distribute a public notice about the relevant provisions of the ADA to all persons who may be interested in its programs, activities, and services;
- designate at least one employee responsible for coordinating compliance with the ADA and investigating ADA complaints; and
- develop and publish grievance procedures to provide fair and prompt resolution of complaints under Title II of the ADA at the local level. Neither Title II nor its implementing regulations describe what ADA grievance procedures must include. However, the Department of Justice has developed a model grievance procedure.
I really feel the key to successfully moving us forward in creating an accessible Batavia is to have a designated ADA Coordinator. As is so wonderfully explained on the ADA.gov website (http://www.ada.gov/pcatoolkit/chap2toolkit.htm), having an ADA Coordinator makes it easy for members of the public to identify someone to help them with questions and concerns about disability discrimination. For example, the ADA Coordinator is often the main contact when someone wishes to request an auxiliary aid or service for effective communication, such as a sign language interpreter or documents in Braille. A knowledgeable ADA Coordinator will be able to efficiently assist people with disabilities with their questions and will also be responsible for investigating complaints.
It is further stated on the ADA.gov website that having an ADA Coordinator also benefits state and local government entities. Assigning one specific contact person to learn about and maintain information about the ADA enables staff members to have their questions answered efficiently, consistently, and correctly. In addition, she or he coordinates compliance measures and can be instrumental in ensuring that compliance plans move forward.An Effective ADA Coordinator
The regulations require state and local governments with 50 or more employees to designate an employee responsible for coordinating compliance with ADA requirements. Here are some of the qualifications that help an ADA Coordinator to be effective:
- familiarity with the state or local government’s structure, activities, and employees
- knowledge of the ADA and other laws addressing the rights of people with disabilities, such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794
- experience with people with a broad range of disabilities
- knowledge of various alternative formats and alternative technologies that enable people with disabilities to communicate, participate, and perform tasks
- ability to work cooperatively with the local government and people with disabilities
- familiarity with any local disability advocacy groups or other disability groups
- skills and training in negotiation and mediation
- organizational and analytical skills