Wheelchair users say public buildings not accessible - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Wheelchair users say public buildings not accessible

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January 23, 2004

Albany- All day long people walk in and out of the new county government center with ease, but that's not an option for James Easom.

"I'm referred to as a quadriplegic, spinal cord injury. I'm paralyzed from my chest down, and I do have limited use of my hands," he says.

He and other wheelchair users have no trouble entering the Albany government complex. It's equipped with electric doors, but trying to get in and out of the county building next door is almost hopeless.

Willie Williams was diagnosed with polio as a child. He has spent 32 years in a wheelchair.

"I'm a pretty strong person and it would help me out if they would put in some automatic doors, but I'm concerned about our quadriplegics," Williams says.

He likens the lack of an automatic door to some of the discriminatory laws of the 50's.

"Blacks couldn't enter a lot of buildings, so here today well the city and the county are giving those in wheelchairs the same problem. They can't enter a lot of buildings because they aren't accessible to them," explains Williams.

Frustrated with having to wait for others to let them in, the Barrier Free Design Advisory Board asked the county to install an electric door last October. The commission denied that request citing budget concerns and the fact that the building already met specifications of the American Disabilities Act.

"We know that it's in compliance with ADA, but like myself and other people that I've talked to have a problem opening the door. Just from a mobility aspect of not being able to manipulate the door itself, we're asking them to please put in an electric door," says Easom.

A door that would provide the equal access to government these men say they've never had.

The Barrier Free Design Advisory Board plans to make another request before the County Commission at their upcoming meeting next week.

Posted at 5:05 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com