VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – Last year, Indiana counties had a July 1 deadline to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and did so successfully.
Peter Ciancone, executive director of the Will Center, thinks county agencies did a good job of complying.
“Things like town hall, city hall, courthouses, courtrooms are in compliance with ADA regulations for accessibility,” said Ciancone.
But now he feels the focus should expand.
20 percent of our population is people with disabilities.
“People with disabilities have just as much right to access the community as people without disabilities,” said Ciancone.
And Ciancone says so much more could be done by privately owned places.
For example, individual businesses are still a mixed bag.
“Some places are very interested in accommodating people with disabilities and some still do not achieve it as readily as others,” said Ciancone. “It’s very important to note people think they are grandfathered in because they’re in existence prior to the regulations being put into effect. That is not the case. Businesses are required to comply with ADA regulations.”
But Ciancone understands it isn’t easy to modify structures.
“There are buildings in Terre Haute that are public structures that are not strictly in compliance, because all the doorways don’t meet the current standards. How exactly do you modify that in a cinder block building when you’re literally going in there with a masonry saw to cut out six more inches for a doorway?” said Ciancone.
What the Department of Justice is looking for is how much good faith effort is put in to achieve a mutually agreeable accommodation for both sides.
“Move the programming that would’ve taken place in that room on the other side of that door to a place that is accessible. That in itself is an accommodation which will satisfy the Department of Justice,” said Ciancone.
And though we have a long way to go, Ciancone thinks if we keep everyone’s ease of life in mind, it will go smoothly.
“Next steps are millions and millions of baby steps associated with accommodating people. This is about individuals and about what individual needs are,” said Ciancone.