Carbondale looks at handicap access issues | PostIndependent.com

Carbondale looks at handicap access issues

Ryan Summerlin
rsummerlin@postindependent.com

Carbondale trustees weighed their town’s level of accessibility to handicapped people during their board meeting this week.

Two agenda items dealt with handicap access issues in town: first was a discussion about Americans with Disabilities Act standards at the town’s playgrounds, and second, the board considered ramp access to two restaurants’ patios in public space.

Trustee Katrina Byars wanted a policy requiring the town to use “equal-access” equipment whenever a piece of playground equipment needs to be replaced or upgraded. Adding handicap parking at Gianinetti-Sewel Park was also a priority, as well as finding a type of playground surface that works well for wheelchairs.

Kim Cassidy, a mother of special needs children, told trustees that ADA standards are really a bare minimum that the town should aim to improve upon.

And other than handicapped children, the community has “wounded warriors” who aren’t often seen in public because of the lack of accessibility — people who would want to come play with their kids at the playground too, said Cassidy.

Larry Ballenger, public works director, and Cassidy plan to meet to discuss possibilities on upgrading the playgrounds.

Beyond only handicap access equipment, Ballenger said none of the parks or playgrounds had structures intended for the 13-plus category. He encouraged the board to think about enhancements that would serve people with disabilities and serve as fitness and recreation structures for the elderly population.

The trustees opted for a middle-ground approach concerning handicap ramps for Phat Thai’s and Allegria’s patios, which both extend onto public property and are granted by the town.

The restaurants had already been using portable ramps, and some trustees wanted them to try a permanent solution, possibly a single ramp between the neighboring patios that split in both directions at the top.

Trustees Allyn Harvey and Frosty Merriott didn’t want to burden the businesses with too many requirements and spoke against forcing them to build permanent ramps.

Mayor Stacey Bernot supported a trial period in which the restaurants would see if the permanent ramp was feasible.

Trustee Pam Zentmyer thought the portable ramp was a liability. Depending on a person to put the ramp in place for you is one thing, but it could be a problem if there’s an emergency and the person you rely on to set it up for you isn’t there, she said.

Eventually trustees approved letting the restaurants continue operating with portable ramps, provided that they come back to the board with information by June 30 about whether permanent ramps would be doable.

In discussion about both the playgrounds and restaurant access, trustees said the town’s access to handicapped people is a wider issue that needs to be addressed.


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