Accessibility a must for people with disabilities

Disability accommodations take on new meaning during the winter. It becomes important, not just to have them, but to keep them clear and usable for the physically disabled.

Business accessibility is integral in winter weather, and that’s especially true for people with disabilities.

Keeping business entrances and parking accessible is one of the most important factors for those with disabilities, said Rob Honan, CEO of Midland Empire Resources for Independent Living.

“When you deal with winter weather, and snow particularly, one of the things that jumps out is the parking,” he said. “You know, (just having) accessible parking for people that need it. Sometimes stores tend to plow the snow into the access aisles for the van-accessible (spots), which can cause a really big problem for people.”

Providing accommodations can be tricky with buildings owned by the city, too. A balance is needed between providing accessibility and maintaining historical significance, St. Joseph ADA coordinator Chuck Kempf said.

“We try and make sure the physical aspects are addressed,” he said. “That becomes much more challenging in existing buildings, especially older buildings, and especially older buildings that are in, I guess, parts of town that aren’t really topographically friendly.”

One example is when bathrooms will be installed on the first floor of the Missouri Theater later in the year.

“It is not an easy project,” Kempf said. “It is an expensive project, and it has to take a lot of care not to alter the historical significance of the interior.”

Having proper accommodations is key at sporting venues, too. That’s particularly true for winter destinations like ski resorts and Bode Ice Arena, Honan said.

“It’s critical that the design and planning must include people with disabilities, or at least the knowledge. Preferably, people with disabilities need to have a seat at the table. But have some knowledge, at the bare minimum, of how to incorporate access to ski lifts, the parking issue I mentioned earlier, the clubhouse and all the things that go into it.”

He said it also is important for employers to be flexible with scheduling in case disabled employees can’t get to work.

Alexander Simone can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @np_simone.