Wheelchair users make case for better access

The county courthouse is in the process of installing new doors.
Friday, June 11, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:59 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

Bryant Savidan travels to the Boone County Courthouse about twice a month. Savidan, who uses a wheelchair, often struggles to get the heavy wooden doors open on his own.

“There are no automatic doors for disability access into the courthouse, and the doors are extremely heavy,” he told the Boone County Commission at its regular meeting Thursday.

Savidan said he has even more trouble at the Columbia police station, where the soundproof and bulletproof doors make it difficult for him to enter or for anyone to hear his knocks. He can get up the ramp but not into the building.

Savidan, who was accompanied Thursday by wheelchair user Dana Heavin, asked the commission to have automatic doors installed at the courthouse. Commissioners were receptive, thanking Savidan for bringing the issue to their attention.

“We try to be as open as possible,” said Northern District Commissioner Skip Elkin. “It takes folks to point out our weaknesses.”

It turns out that the replacement of the courthouse doors is already in the works. Maintenance workers met with an architect on Tuesday to discuss the scope and design of the project. After specifications are complete, the Purchasing Department will seek bids. The project will then go to the commission for final approval.

Savidan received a different reaction in regard to the police station, which is under the discretion of the city of Columbia. He said he met with representatives of the Public Works Department eight months ago and was told a door opener would be installed soon. He has yet to see it.

Dan Darnell, a building regulations supervisor with the city, said he knows of no immediate plans to install automatic door openers at the station.

Darnell said the building does comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which does not require automatic door openers if other physical conditions are met.

Although automatic doors are not required, Savidan said they make life much easier.

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