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-Isms: Views on life in rural America

You discover a different perspective when you rely on a walker for mobility for several weeks. Following hip surgery, I pushed a walker, primarily for stability, strength and balance.

Man, woman and child, did I learn a lot.

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines accessible as “a site, facility, work environment, service or program that is easy to approach, enter, operate, participate in, and/or use safely and with dignity by a person with a disability.”

The ADA became law on July 26, 1990, and was amended in 2008 and 2010.

Here’s an observation that should concern governmental entities and businesses in our region: You/we may believe your/our facilities and infrastructure provide Accessibility for persons with a disability. In reality, we have work to do.

As a business owner, the first realization I encountered at our office is the lack of a handicapped entrance. Don’t get me wrong, the door is wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair (and walker). However, unless someone accompanies a person using a mobility aid, the individual may not be able to open the door by themselves. This is a concern that will be addressed.

The bathroom does not have a grab bar. According to the ADA, a 42-inch minimum length grab bar is required on a side wall, spaced a maximum of 12 inches from the back wall and extending a minimum of 54 inches from the back wall at a height of 33 to 36 inches. We’ll be installing one.

Does your business, village office, school, library, church or public spot provide adaptive equipment for entry and use? Do you provide handicapped parking? Is it clearly marked?

Another concern is the quality of infrastructure - read that as sidewalk and road conditions - in our communities. What is the condition of pavement, especially in business districts? Can an individual using a walker or wheelchair navigate potholes, asphalt breakup and uneven sidewalks?

One week post surgery, Elizabeth walked with me across the street to a noon meeting. While the middle of Main Street was smooth sailing, conditions deteriorated the closer I got to the edge of the street. Once on the sidewalk, there were times I had to stop and map out the route in my mind so I would arrive safely.

Accessibility shouldn’t be that complicated.

I urge community leaders and business owners to put yourselves in a position to view the world the same way a disabled individual does. Look at your own property and see what potential pitfalls form a barrier for a handicapped individual.

It will be an eye-opening experience. It was for me.


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