Wheelchair accessibility seen as an issue throughout WisconsinSubmitted: 12/31/2018
Angela Kim
Angela Kim

Wheelchair accessibility seen as an issue throughout Wisconsin
STEVENS POINT - People who are able-bodied do many things without second thought, like step into a restaurant, go to the bathroom, or get into a car.

But for people who are disabled, it's a bit more of a challenge.

A light switch may be out of reach, a door may be too heavy, or a ramp may be too steep. When the snow and ice kick in during winter, things become a little more difficult. 

Karalyn Peterson, a Midstate Independent Living Choices resource coordinator, has experienced this trouble for the past two decades. 

"Able-bodied people who can get up and walk, they don't realize that if you want to go there you have to do this and this," said Peterson. "There's a whole process to everything."

Midstate Independent Living Choices consultant Nancy Keller said some places throughout Wisconsin are difficult to get to. Many places don't meet ADA requirements. 

"There's a lot of issues I see," said Keller. 

"There are times when I feel totally defeated," said Peterson. "Like 'Oh my gosh, I can't even go to the bathroom.'"

The cold weather and snow makes it even harder for people who are disabled. Some ramps may be too icy or a sidewalk won't be cleared for people to walk. 

"There are a lot of places that say they're accessible and are not," said Keller. "Especially in the winter there are so many issues with snow and ice building up."

"If I can get to a restaurant, that's kind of iffy if there's a snowstorm," said Peterson. "Lately, especially because a lot of the time the curbs won't be clear."

The problem isn't just outside either. If a bathroom is too small or tables are too close together, that is also not ADA compliant. 

"There are times when you just want to wring people's necks," said Peterson. "It's been so long and they still don't get it."

To make it easier for Peterson and everyone else who is disabled, Keller said pointing out these flaws to businesses is a small step in the right direction. 
"I would encourage anybody in the public, if you go somewhere and you see an issue that's clearly an accessibility issue, say something to the manager," said Keller. "If I was here in a wheelchair, I wouldn't be able to get through the door."

Keller said that businesses can do more to make sure ramps and sidewalks are completely accessible. 

For instance, just salting a ramp isn't enough. Keller said the salt can actually damage aluminum and wooden ramps quickly. 

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