Columbia Disabilities Commission Will Discuss Accessibility Needs

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Disabilities Commission will meet today at 3 p.m. today to discuss three important issues affecting the disabled community.

Chuck Graham, the chairman of the commission, said one of those issues is the absence of disabled accessibility on student housing transportation.

"This is some great housing stock that's accessible but the buses that are running them to and from campus don't have lifts, and there's no reason they shouldn't have lifts," Graham said.

Graham said these students pay the same amount of rent as others do, so they should have the same access to transportation.

"Well what the city would potentially do, and I'd hope that they do, is require that if these housing providers are providing transportation to their tenants to be able to go to class that the buses they purchase have to be accessible and usable by everybody that's renting there, including students with disabilities," Graham said.

Graham said this is an issue that hasn't been encountered before. The large amount of student housing options off campus has brought it to his attention.

"Housing providers never provided transportation in the past," Graham said. "Only in the past three or four years have housing providers made transportation a part of their rent and their services, and I've noticed that they're not accessible. It's a new problem that needs a new solution and hopefully we'll find one."

People with disabilities can contact Columbia's Para-Transit for rides, but they must schedule the rides a day in advance. There's also a $2 fare each way for riding. Graham said it would be more convenient if students could just use their residential transportation.

The commission will also discuss the Historic Preservation Commission's plan to bring more brick roads into downtown Columbia. Graham said the commission is opposed to such roads.

"It's a terrible surface for people with chairs, people with canes, people with walkers," Graham said. "To do that throughout all of downtown makes it very inaccessible for people with disabilities."

Graham said he does know of some other surfaces that may still give the look of brick.

"There are a lot accessible surfaces that can have a brick appearance like brick pavers, New Orleans has those on some of their sidewalks," Graham said. "I think it's a better surface, it's easier to maintain.

Graham said this plan contradicts the city's goals.

"One of the things Columbia is trying to do is attract more seniors and people with disabilities," Graham said. "If you're making the downtown area less accessible, that doesn't make any sense."

The last issue to be discussed will be the CATSO Long Range Transit plan presentation. This plan lays out new bus routes and bus stops for the city.

According to senior planner Mitch Skov, there are four goals for the plan, each with objectives. One of the objectives is to improve and expand infrastructure for people with disabilities. One of the measures of that will be developing a plan and funding source to bring sidewalks, crosswalks, and bus shelters up to standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"There needs to be a concrete pad and landing at the bus stops so people in wheelchairs can get on the ramp to the bus and be able board the bus," Graham said. "A lot of places in town where there are bus stops, there's just a sidewalk and a grassy area and there's not proper room to be able to load and get on the bus." 

The meeting will take place in the Walton Building Board Room at 300 S. Providence. If you want to see the full agenda for the meeting, you can find it here.