Columbus and Bartholomew County officials are in the process of examining how all city and county properties comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
That’s important, because beyond prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities, the act also requires state and local governments to ensure that people with disabilities have access to their properties.
After all provisions of the ADA took effect in 1994, many new construction projects took place at government buildings so they could meet the act’s requirements.
One example locally is the ramps installed at Bartholomew County Courthouse.
However, it’s been about a dozen years since the city and county examined how they comply.
Across the country, many city and county governments didn’t develop ADA plans when the act first started in 1990, or failed to follow through on or update them.
Whom to call
Columbus: Director of Operations and Finance Jeff Logston, 376-2500 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Bartholomew County: Bartholomew County Commissioners, 379-1515 or email Chief Deputy Debbie Londeree at email@example.com
Commercial (both city and county): Commercial Building Inspector Jeff Abplanalp, 379-1535 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Now, the Federal Highway Administration is threatening to withhold funds from local governments that do not have an updated ADA plan.
While it’s unfortunate that such action would be necessary to motivate local governments to comply with the law, the local efforts are pleasing.
City employees have been evaluating all municipal facilities for the past few months. That includes assessing all policies and procedures within each department to see how they meet ADA regulations.
An examination of all public right-of-way infrastructure, including curb ramps and sidewalks, is under way. Those findings will help shape the city’s ADA transition plan, which it wants to complete by the end of November.
The public also will have a chance to shape the transition plan at meetings in October where the evaluation’s findings will be shared.
A review of county buildings has raised concerns about the future of the Bartholomew County Annex Building on State Street. Complaints are that it is too small and its wheelchair lift would be inadequate in an emergency.
Some people have complained that the greater problem is in the private sector, where store doors sometimes are difficult to open, or stores don’t have wheelchair ramps.
Because the reviews involve community properties, the process needs to have community input. The ultimate beneficiaries of ADA compliance are city and county residents.
We all know people who are disabled, or who likely will have some type of disability as they age. In the future, it could be you.
Sharing your thoughts with city and county officials, and private businesses, will help ensure that the review process is thorough.
And it will show how important providing access for people with disabilities is to this community.
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