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More MS news articles for April 2004

Prexy’s plan draws concerns over disabled access

April, 2004
Andi Balla
Laramie Boomerang

A plan to close the heart of the University of Wyoming campus to traffic is drawing concern from people with disabilities who say it will diminish their access to Prexy’s Pasture and surrounding buildings.

But UW officials say the renovation of Prexy’s Pasture complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and will actually increase disabled parking in the western part of campus.

The renovation will relocate nine disabled parking spots from Prexy’s Pasture, as the area is closed to traffic, according to UW officials.

But the plan also establishes 18 new disabled spots in an approximate 1000 feet radius of the Arts and Sciences building, roughly the geographical center of the western side of campus.

Advocates for those with disabilities said Tuesday travel distance, the proposed usage of unattractive back doors and absence of a firm plan for disability access will leave behind a bad feeling among people with disabilities.

“It is our feeling that access is going to decrease significantly just for the … distance that will now be required to walk from parking spaces or drop-off points,” said Tricia Mason, a community services specialist with Governor’s Planing Council on Developmental Disabilities. “Is it very feasible to make somebody on oxygen or with Multiple Sclerosis to walk very far?”

She said the council, which is part of the state’s Attorney General’s Office, became involved when it received several complaints about UW’s plans.

Mason said the project needs to be reviewed by state and federal officials to guarantee access and the rights of the disabled.

“It seems … the accessibility part is sort of an afterthought in the plan,” Mason said.

But Roger Baalman, UW director of facilities and planing, said the project is mindful of accessibly issues.

“As we went through the planning process, we were mindful of the ADA requirements,” Baalman said. “I believe we are in compliance with the ADA with the modifications that we are doing to Prexy’s Pasture.”

UW officials organized two public meetings on Tuesday to discuss and receive input about disability issues in the Prexy’s Pasture renovation plan.

“It is the view of the university that the plan is compliant with the ADA, but we have certainly taken under consideration good suggestions to improve the project,” said Elizabeth Hardin, UW vice president for administration.

She added the university “will take some action” after hearing the comments in the meeting.

The university plan also requires the cooperation of the city government, according to Hardin, because five of the 18 proposed disabled parking spots are on city-managed streets.

University officials said for special events, like concerts or shows held in the Arts and Sciences building, shuttle services from the nearest parking lot will be available for the disabled.

A summer program will also test the feasibility of inter-building service by electrical vehicles, which will move people inside the perimeter of the pedestrian area, according to Hardin.

But Mason said these vehicles are currently not accessible to people on wheel chairs and ways to call and ask for the service are limited.

Copyright © 2004, Laramie Boomerang