City of Centralia Deficient in ADA Compliance

9 years 11 months 2 weeks ago Wednesday, October 13 2010 Oct 13, 2010 Wednesday, October 13, 2010 10:33:49 AM CDT October 13, 2010 in News

CENTRALIA - On Monday night, the Great Plains ADA submitted a 40 page report to the administrative office of the City of Centralia. The report outlined 39 different violations of the American-Disability-Act in public buildings and streets. A representative from the Centralia Accessability Committee said 5 violations in the City Hall lobby were found while waiting for the city administrator.

Violations include sidewalks without ramps, ramps that exceed a regulation 2% slope, inadequate hand rails, inaccessible bathrooms in multiple public buildings, inadequate parking and van accessibility, and a lack of emergency warning systems with both sound and visual alerts to name a few.

CAC member, John Hinten, compares going down some of the ramps in his wheelchair to skiing down a slope. Hinten has also torn up multiple wheels when he has to roll over curbs to try to get across the street.

After receiving the report, Centralia's city administrator, Lynn Behrns, says, "We probably were less aware than we should have been." Behrns says a lack of resources and a limited team wearing multiple hats in a small town holds their efforts back, but the administration is trying to be reactive to things brought to its attention by the public.

The city has recently repaved some of the roads throughout Centralia and have since included ramps with truncated domes,  bumps on top of the smooth ramp, along the main intersections and roads.

But some people complain there is much more to be done. CAC spokesperson, Gretchen Maune, says, "If that's his job as city manager, it's like a paying job, and they should be aware of all codes and laws that they need to follow for their city."

Maune lost her vision four years ago and has since become an advocate for people living with disabilities.

"We're not asking (the city) to fix everything all at once," says Maune, "but it's something that has to be done."

More than 19% of the population in Centralia live with a disability. That means one fifth of the community is forced to deal with obstacles people without disabilities take for granted, like opening doors or walking across the street.

74 year old Edith Cates has been learning to cope after being in a power wheelchair for the last 3 years. When her daughters are with her, she can wear her prosthetic leg which makes it easier to get around. But when she is on her own, she must move around stubborn obstacles, like doors that don't open automatically.

Pointing to her foot, Cates explains, "I just go up to the door real easy and I push the door open like this and take my hand  and try to push it the rest of the way open." Cates says limits like these inhibit her independence.

Maune wants everyone with a disability to be able to "move around and do the things that, well, everyone wants to do."

The City of Centralia has a long way to go to be in compliance with ADA laws and regulations. But, with the help of a $28,500 from a Safe Routes to School grant, the city plans to build a half mile sidewalk along Columbia Street, and a quarter mile sidewalk along Lakeview Street that will be both pedestrian and wheelchair accessible. Plans for construction will begin next Monday, but the duration of the project is yet to be determined.

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