July 8, 2008

County Seeks Feedback on ADA Plans

By Deb Gruver, The Wichita Eagle, Kan.

Jul. 8--From light switches that are too high to entry doors that are too heavy, Sedgwick County's government buildings have about 900 problems that create barriers for people with disabilities.

A consultant has recommended that the county spend more than $3.5 million over 20 years to correct accessibility problems at buildings the county owns and leases.

The county will take public comment at two meetings Wednesday about the plan to improve access for people with disabilities and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The consultant, Kent Johnson from ADA Accrediting and Consulting in Columbia, Mo., looked at issues such as employment barriers for people with disabilities as well as physical issues.

The county fared well during the study, which started in 2006, he said.

"Compared to other counties, they're probably a lot better off than most," Johnson said Monday.

As a comparison, he said, his company completed a study in California that flagged more than 5,000 problems that would cost more than $15 million to correct. And that government agency had about 20 fewer buildings, he said.

Johnson's company inspected about 80 buildings for Sedgwick County.

Although 900 problems -- or barriers, as Johnson calls them -- may seem like a lot to a lay person, he said that number is "pretty low."

"You're talking about every little tiny thing like if the light switch is too high," he said. "Some of them are minute. Some of them will require major reconstruction."

For example, the Kansas African American Museum has limited access and no elevators, he said.

His study grouped recommendations into priority categories.

"Things that are very high priority for removing structural barriers are either safety hazards or would absolutely prohibit access by a person with a disability," he said.

Chance to review plan

The county paid ADA Accrediting and Consulting about $90,000 for the study.

Lindsey Mahoney, the county's ADA coordinator, said the point of Wednesday's public meetings is to give people with disabilities and other residents a chance to review the plan and offer suggestions.

For example, the county might rearrange a project's schedule if people with disabilities determine it's a bigger priority than another, she said.

Issues deemed "very high" priority will be tackled by the end of 2009. Those projects are estimated to cost $278,350.

Fixing projects deemed high priorities will cost a little more than $1 million and would be completed by the end of 2011.

Medium-priority projects would cost $942,050 and be completed by the end of 2013.

Low-priority projects would cost $709,953 and be completed by the end of 2018.

Very low-priority projects would cost $571,700 and be completed by the end of 2028.

There are no projects deemed very high level for the main courthouse building, where many county services are located.

Problems recommended to be fixed by the end of 2009 include :

There are no signs to help people find the closest accessible entrance at Fire Station No. 37, 4343 N. Woodlawn.

Surfaces next to accessible parking space at COMCARE Addiction Treatment, 940 N. Taylor, are too steep.

The entrance doors to the public bathrooms at the vehicle tag office at 2330 N. Maize are too heavy.

Mahoney said the county hopes to bring final recommendations to commissioners this fall.

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or [email protected]


To see more of The Wichita Eagle, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.kansas.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, The Wichita Eagle, Kan.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For reprints, email [email protected], call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.