Last Update: Sunday 27 September, 2009
By Tom Kielbasa
Special to the Sun
Gainesville still has a long way to go toward meeting the needs of the disabled, according to residents who voiced their concerns during a public hearing Tuesday.
More than 30 disabled people and representatives for area disabled groups met with the official Working Group of the Americans with Disabilities Act, voicing problems such as inadequate transportation and lack of employment for the disabled in Gainesville.
The Working Group was created last year to encourage the implementation of the ADA legislation and provide cooperation among state and local governments, businesses and disabled people. Tuesday’s hearing was part of the group’s quarterly meeting.
Among the participants was Gainesville resident Zich Andrews, whose right leg is affected by polio and who is hearing impaired.
He said he has been unable to find work since moving here in 1996.
He said the lack of employment for disabled people, compounded with a need for better transportation for the disabled, has made finding a job difficult.
Others echoed Andrews’ concerns.
“Employment and transportation are probably the biggest issues we face as a community,” said J.R. Harding, ADA Working Group chairman.
Working Group officials discovered a lack of what they called adequate resources when they tried to book a Gainesville hotel for their quarterly meeting and found that the only hotel fully accessible to the disabled was the Best Western Gateway Grand on NW 97th Boulevard.
Harding said they needed a hotel with wheelchair ramps and special fire alarms systems for the hearing and sight-impaired members, but only one hotel could accommodate them all.
“It speaks of a lack of sensitivity, a lack of inclusion and a lack of effort to bring everybody in, ‘Harding said. “And as a result we were not able to spend significant amounts of money at all the other hotels. We chose this one (Best Western) because (it) was best able to accommodate the diversity of the disabled community.”
He said a greater community effort is needed to recognize the needs of people with disabilities.