New Castle going backwards in ADA compliance

Editor, The News:

It is the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, public space in America was largely inaccessible to people with disabilities. The ADA promised an incremental path forward toward more accessibility and greater access. In New Castle, it appears the city is sliding backwards.

In 2005, a group of disability rights activists protested outside state Rep. Chris Sainato’s office, demanding the building be made accessible for people with disabilities. A fully accessible entryway was installed, allowing access to the building and what is now a banquet center.

The current owner, a New Castle City councilman, removed this accessible entryway and now the building is once again inaccessible. This is particularly egregious as there is an elected official as a tenant. Even worse, taxpayer money was provided for this building to be renovated.

The ADA requires that existing accessible features be maintained. Reducing access is prohibited by law. The building owner did just that. The frustration of the disability community continues as we mark the 30th anniversary of the ADA. We still encounter broken sidewalks, missing curb cuts and businesses with a step up to get inside.

New Castle and surrounding communities need a clear vision of what an accessible and inclusive community for people with disabilities looks like. Disability Options Network is trying to light the way with revitalization efforts on the Lower East Side and the community gardens in both the Lower East side and now the Southside communities. We are in this community and want it to be attractive and accessible to all.

The city should be welcoming for all and inclusive of everyone. Without leadership and a commitment to action, this community is not moving forward. The city’s leaders should be at the forefront of this effort or we are not a community with access for all. Let this anniversary serve as a wake-up call.

Melissa Allen

Director

Disability Options Network 

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