City misses mark in access for disabled

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

The city of Toledo has failed in hundreds of ways to make facilities accessible to the disabled, a U.S. Department of Justice report says.

The 96-page report outlines access problems at 53 structures at which city programs and services are provided. Most violations were only a few inches too high, too low, too wide, or too narrow.

The report stems from a complaint filed five years ago by the group Barrier Free Toledo, which said the city hadn’t done enough to evaluate its access problems.

Now that the report has been filed, the city will negotiate with Justice Department officials on how to fix the listed problems.

Perlean Griffin, manager of the city’s affirmative action office, said the cost of compliance won’t be known until next month, after all the effected departments total their own cost estimates.

Among the violations listed in the Justice Department report:

* The rest room stalls in the 13th-floor restrooms at Government Center are 19 inches too narrow for wheelchair-access standards.

* The Scott Park district police station has counters four feet off the floor, when three feet is the standard. The station has no van-accessible parking spaces, and the grab bars in the rest rooms are too short and too far from the wall – both by one inch.

* At the Erie Street Market, no sign to notifies wheelchair users about a lift to the elevated restaurant area.

Sue Deck, an activist for disabled people, said she had expected the report to point out all the problems it did.

“I guess now the city knows what’s expected of them,” she said. “They’ve had plenty of time to fix these problems. This is nothing new. The city’s just been dragging its feet.

“I don’t care if they’re required to spend millions tomorrow. They have to do it,” she said.

Some of the most used structures had the most violations.

Toledo Municipal Court had 30 problems, the report said, ranging from rest room issues to too-high coat hooks, too-narrow doors, and too-high elevator floor buttons.

The Toledo Botanical Gardens had 40 violations, including doorknobs that are too tight, pay phones that are too high, and the absence of Braille signs at rest rooms.

Christine DiBartolo, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said she could not comment on an ongoing investigation. But she did say she is hopeful for a resolution.

“We continue to negotiate with the city, and it is our hope to resolve this amicably, short of litigation,” she said.