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More MS news articles for April 2004

Plan puts wheelchairs in a bowl, some say

Thursday, April 15, 2004
W Dale Nelson
Casper Star-Tribune

With less than a month to go before parking is banned from Prexy's Pasture, some people with disabilities say the University of Wyoming's plans to provide them with alternative access will actually make it harder for them.

At a meeting at the Coe Library on Tuesday, UW officials said their plan provides 18 new disabled parking spots in the western side of the campus and will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"The campus is not terribly accessible," Elizabeth Hardin, recently named UW vice president for administration, conceded. Hardin said the Prexy's Pasture project "has given us an opportunity to make more progress than we would have" on the broader question of access for people who have difficulty getting around.

Nine handicapped spots and one parking meter spot will be relocated when parking around the perimeter of the pasture, the grassy ellipse at the heart of the campus, is banned and construction of a set of walkways begins on May 17.

The second phase of the pasture project, which has aroused controversy over the probable removal of spruce and pine trees and their replacement with other plantings, has not yet been approved by the trustees and is scheduled to begin after completion of the first phase.

Tuesday's meeting, called by the university, was civil and orderly in contrast to a meeting last month called by protesters against the tree removal, in which heated and occasionally abusive remarks were directed at university representatives.

Several speakers Tuesday noted that some of the proposed parking spaces are on the north side of Lewis Street, which runs along the north edge of the campus, and thus would require crossing a busy street. The city has been asked to build a crosswalk, but Hardin said this would not be in place by May 17.

Even when they reach the campus, speakers said, the handicapped will be required to go up a steep grade to reach the campus core. There are not adequate signs to tell people which way to go, they said.

"You can really get lost even if you are walking," said Lucy Carter, a project coordinator for the university's disability support service.

Olivette Turbeville, speaking from a wheelchair, said, "What you are doing is putting people in a bowl and making them climb a hill."

Hardin agreed that better signs are needed at many places on the campus. She said the administration would consider the complaints received and could probably make improvement in streets and curb cuts, but conceded that "the grade issue will be more of a challenge."

Tricia Mason, a community service specialist with the Governor's Planning Council on Developmental Disabilities, acknowledged that the university was providing additional handicapped parking, but said the problem "is the distance, the terrain."

She and others made the point that access problems confront not only those in wheelchairs, but those who are pregnant, on oxygen, with multiple sclerosis, or need the aid of a cane.

Copyright © 2004, Casper Star-Tribune