The Big Bell

Over in Ragged Edge's News Dept. we've posted a story that shows the fight for access is just as overwhelming on the East Coast as out on the West Coast.

Seems the U.S. Department of Justice won't bother to investigate complaints Roanoke wheelchair user Robert Eggers filed last year. The businesses are inaccessible to wheelchair users. Their front entrances have what the newspaper called "ledges" -- steps. Some are 5 inches high.

That's the same kind of access barrier wheelchair users find here in Louisville. I was involved for awhile in a group here called MetroSweep, modeled on a project organized by a group in Harrisburg, PA. MetroSweep members were also trying to gain access to businesses that had this kind of a step at their front entrances. Putting these "ledges" at entrances to businesses was a common practice until the last few decades, of course.

The Roanoke businesses, instead of installing ramps, have installed "buzzers and signs for disabled people."

The same pattern we see on the West Coast in coverage of the issue is repeated in story from the Roanoke paper: businesses are doing the best they can; some disabled people, after all, don't mind; and after all Eggers hasn't really tried to get in, anyway...

From the Roanoke Times story:

Johnny Baublitz, a 28-year-old Northwest Roanoke resident who uses a wheelchair, said of the buzzers: "It's a slight improvement, but they could do a lot better, I think."

Several of the people named in the complaints have said they could not make extensive accessibility changes to building exteriors because doing so could compromise the building's historic nature.

Bill Kopcial, owner of Ernie's, said Eggers had not yet tried to come and eat at the restaurant since a buzzer and handicapped sign were installed....

"You can't rebuild downtown Roanoke because of him," Kopcial said. (Read the entire story.)

The story doesn't say so, but I just bet that the "buzzers" are really the "Big Bell" promoted by a group called Inclusion Solutions. That group is a whiz at marketing -- they seem especially good at finding and selling to businesses that have been targeted by activists.

The Big Bell solution was suggested in Louisville, too. The MetroSweep folks didn't like that at all. Read what they said about it on their website.

January 20, 2006 | Email this story


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