City and county officials joined members of the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Community Accessibility (MACCA) on Saturday, Oct. 2, for a tour of downtown Huntington – from the perspective of people who live with disabilities.
The Downtown Roll-Around aims not just to draw attention to the obstacles and difficulties people with disabilities face in the community, but also to encourage city and county leadership, local businesses and residents to work toward solutions.
“One of the things that I’ve learned in life that’s good for my leadership is every now and then stepping out of my own experience to learn from someone else’s, so that I can see things a little bit better,” Huntington Mayor Richard Strick said.
The group started at the Huntington City Building in the morning to begin a scavenger hunt that took participants across downtown, into local shops and up the ramp at the Huntington County Courthouse. The catch is that they had to stay seated in a wheelchair and could not use their legs.
Everyday tasks such as entering a store to make a purchase or reaching an item on a top shelf could no longer be taken for granted. Participants noted the strength it took to navigate just a few blocks in downtown Huntington. They realized how much the condition of a sidewalk affected their ability to move down the street, or even how a narrow aisle in a store could make parts of it inaccessible.
Huntington County Councilman Terry Miller, who took part in the Roll-Around, called it an “eye-opening” outing that gave him a newfound respect for the challenges people who use wheelchairs encounter in the community. He said the first-hand experience pushed him to expand his own thoughts on how to make accommodations for people with mobility limitations while maintaining a business’ or government office’s budget.
“There is no doubt” improvements need to be looked into, Miller said of what he took away from the event.
Some city resources, such as the Sidewalk Replacement Program, can help the benefits of such improvements outweigh their costs. The sidewalk program offsets up to half the cost a homeowner or business owner incurs for eligible sidewalk maintenance projects. The program can also be used toward eligible ADA-compliant curb ramp installation. More details may be found at huntington.in.us/sidewalks.
Other cost-effective improvements local businesses can consider include widening entrances and aisle ways when possible, evaluating restrooms for accessibility upgrades, seating arrangements at local restaurants and lowering displays and shelving to allow for an easier reach. More information is available in an accessibility brochure that can be found at huntington.in.us/macca.
Huntington Area Transportation provided the wheelchairs used during the Downtown Roll-Around.