COLUMBIA —Broken sidewalks. Inaccessible buildings. Development that fails to meet standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. These are just a few of the problems that Columbia residents with disabilities face, according to a new group representing their interests.
The Disabilities Forum of Columbia has contracted with the Public Communications Resource Advisory Committee to host four face-to-face forums with the Columbia City Council. The advisory committee distributes money to local groups to help them enhance communication.
“Through these face-to-face meetings, we hope to facilitate discussion with city officials on important topics pertaining to the disability community," said Homer Page, chairman of the Columbia Disabilities Commission. "We also hope the people themselves will get involved and help us determine what topics really matter to them.”
Page said two main areas need immediate attention. The condition of sidewalks is the first and largest problem.
"The sidewalks are badly broken or missing links, especially in the area east of downtown," Page said. "This largely affects those with physical disabilities."
Bad sidewalks can also force people with disabilities to resort to dangerous measures to get where they need to go.
“You’ll often see me in the far right or far left lane of the street in my wheelchair because some of the sidewalks are so damaged or inaccessible,” Paquin Tower resident Max Lewis said.
The second area of improvement pertains to development.
"Areas such as the Bass Pro development off of Vandiver Drive offer little to no accessibility between shopping areas," Page said. "The disabled community is looking for the consistent application of the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements in both new construction and the development of new commercial areas."
Page anticipates the first face-to-face discussion will take place in early April.