Not All Communities Accessible to All
"It's been tough to get used to," he admitted. "I went from 900 miles an hour to zero in a heartbeat. Doors are hard to open and close, entrances are not ramped so you can get into them easily, [there are] tight spaces that you can't make turns."
Regina Williams manages a Centralia salon.
"It's okay to get into it," she said. "We've got a wall right as you walk in, but usually they [people in wheelchairs] come in and swing around the corner."
Hinten explained, "I call Gina up before I come in, and by the time I get up there she's got stuff pulled out of the way and made it as accessible as she can."
The ADA requires accessibility in all businesses, but the law didn't become part of local building codes until 1993. For buildings constructed before that "it's a matter of, usually, negotiations between those people and the business," said Lynn Behrns, city administrator.
And, if businesses don't cooperate? They [people with disabilities] sue or "they make a complaint to the federal government," said Behrns
However, some buildings can't install a permanent entrance ramp because it would cover too much of the sidewalk. So, the ADA states a change has to be "easily accomplished," able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.
Small towns such as Centralia usually don't have many disable residents or resources, two factors which help determine what is "easily accomplished."
"They need to have that access in all businesses," said Williams.
"We've got as much right to be in these areas as anybody else," added Hinten. "It's like being one of my kids when they were little. They couldn't do anything without mom and that's kind of what it is. So you feel pretty inadequate."
Behrns hopes Centralia eventually will be totally accessible, but she admitted it's a slow process. The local ADA office said it's a complicated law and each case is different, so there are different options.
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