Oxford to rework access routes and disability parking over time

Adam Brown cannot go to The Blind Pig after 5 p.m.

“The Thompson Building is technically accessible, but you’ve got a situation where you can go for lunch but not to the bar at night,” Brown said.

While there is an elevator in The Thompson Building on the ground floor, the entrance is locked at the end of the workday, therefore cutting off all access to The Blind Pig other than the stairs.

Brown was diagnosed with cerebral palsy soon after he was born and has used a walker since he was a year old. As the president and one of the founding members of the Advocates of Student Disabilities Association (ASDA), Brown is well-versed in what needs to happen and what it will take to make it happen.

Stacey Reycraft, director of Student Disability Services and chairman of the Mayor’s Committee on Disability Issues, works both with campus and city officials to help students and Oxonians with physical and mental disabilities.

Last year, the committee developed a plan for how to improve accessibility in Oxford, and one of the main points in the plan was the Square.

“That’s kind of the heart of the city, and it’s unfortunate that so many people can’t access the heart of the city,” Reycraft said.

Around the same time as the introduction of this plan, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act was passed and refocused the federal government’s commitment to disability access. The Mississippi Department of Transportation became involved and deadlines were set by the state.

“Oxford was a little ahead of the game because we already had an ADA coordinator and this plan in place,” Reycraft said.

Now Al Hope, ADA coordinator for Oxford, and other officials are in the midst of a self-evaluation of the city and county to determine where things need to be added, replaced or renovated in order to better adhere to the rules and regulations of the ADA.

The self-evaluation covers everything from disability parking to the availability of Braille and Teletypewriter (TTY) technology. Hope is equipped with hearing devices and other gadgets to assist people with hearing and speech disabilities.

“We may never get a call, but we have these kinds of things just in case,” Hope said.

Thanks to Google Maps and satellite technology, Hope said he has been through every street, sidewalk and curb in town from the comfort of his office, and when he finds something that needs a second look, he can get there physically as well.

“If I’m not satisfied with that, that’s what I have the bicycle for,” Hope said.

By May, Hope will have finished the self-evaluation and is set to finish the transition plan timeline by November.

Many buildings in Oxford, including City Hall, are on the historic registry and do not have the foundation to handle some renovations, such as chair lifts and elevators, but Hope and the committee are finding ways around that.

New access routes and ramps will be added to the rear of City Hall, along with disability parking spots, to keep the antique building’s original look while making it easily accessible for everyone.

“You don’t have to ruin the look to fix the building,” Reycraft said.

The price for these renovations is unknown as of yet, but Hope said he plans to gather the numbers within the year and phase it into the budget year after year.

“You get a cost on it, you know what it’s going to cost,” Hope said. “You phase it in year after year in your transition plan. But first, we gotta find out what areas we need to do.”

The ADA requires that there be one disability parking spot for every eight spots, and Hope expects there to be at least one on each side of the Square by the time the transition plan is finished.

“The parking space is more than just the blue lines,” Hope said “That’s not very special. But if we have to do curb cuts, that’s going to be different.”

As of right now, there are a few spots across the Square, but many of them need different dimensions and curb cuts for better accessibility. A disability parking spot at Abner’s on University Ave. was recently redone because a shrub bush was blocking accessibility on the right side.

Hope and the committee are focused on the Square right now, but they are working their way across the city after that.
More details will be available after the self-evaluation is finished in May.

“We try to be as high-speed and no-drag as we can, but you have to be motivated to do this kind of stuff,” Hope said.

@ The Daily Mississippian — Oxford, Miss.

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