Great Plains ADA granted $5 million for research and training

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COLUMBIA - The Great Plains ADA Center received a grant for $5 million from the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The money will benefit Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas. The grant will fund the center through 2021. This is the fifth consecutive time the department has awarded the grant to the center.

The grant will pay for several projects, including an annual national symposium and research to find the most effective methods of education and training for ADA compliance.

Chuck Graham, the associate director of the Great Plains ADA Center, said without the grant, the center would not be able to run.

"It continues having a resource for people who have questions or concerns or need information about the ADA, about their rights, about what they need to do to comply, and that information is free of charge," he said. "It's a great resource not only for this community, but for the four state region."

On a daily basis, the center answers questions people with disabilities may have about their rights and helps businesses become more accessible. Richard King is the owner of Thumper Entertainment, the group that makes Roots 'n Blues possible. All Roots 'N Blues volunteers underwent ADA training on Wednesday in preparation for the festival. He said making sure all people are able to attend the festival is a number one priority for him.

"People with special needs, so to speak, are very important," he said. "We want to make sure they just feel welcome. We don't want them to feel like we're going out of our way or anything like that. We want this to be just a routine thing, the way we do business every year at the festival."

Bob Pund, a person with a disability who is confined to a wheelchair, said seeing Columbia become more concerned about accessibility is great.

"I remember before the ADA was passed, things were not as accessible," he said. "Since that time, every time they build a new building, it is much better than it was in the past before the ADA."