Diabled Community Works to Make City More Accessible

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COLUMBIA - Members of the Disabilities Commission met at the Chamber of Commerce Thursday to discuss ways to make the city more accessible for people with disabilities. There were 12 commission members present, and the seven with significant disabilities spoke about their experiences on the city's bus system.

While Commission Chair Homer Page said Columbia is a relatively accessible city for those with disabilities, he also said there are a lot of improvements that need to be made and his focus is the transit system. The commission is looking at two transit systems, one in Champaign, Ill., and the second in Lawrence, Kan., as models. However, the difference between Champaign and Columbia is that Champaign's system receives state dollars, while the Missouri legislature does not fund Columiba's public transit. Page said the commission members would be relying heavily on private investments to make the changes they want to make.

The disabled community does have its own transit system called "Para Transit", but the buses only run six days a week and sometimes no later than 5 p.m. Additionally, if someone wants to use the system, they must make plans 24 hours in advance. Members of the commission said they are constantly needing a ride somewhere and have no way to find transportation.

Many of the members are also friends with Janet Barnes, the quadreplegic who was hit by a car in April. After discussing updates of her current condition, some members mentioned they would like to discuss changes in the future that would make Columbia a safer city for people in wheelchairs.

Today was just a discussion of those ideas. No final decisions have been made.