Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Mark Keller couldn't argue that the new Visalia Transit Center certainly is kind to the eyes, but he was there Tuesday to find out if it also was kind to people in wheelchairs.
In minutes, he found his first unfriendly spot: The sharp corner turn to get into the men's room combined with a heavy door difficult to open while trying to maneuver his wheelchair.
"I think the restrooms failed. They're a little tight," said Keller, a Visalia disabled-rights advocate who uses a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis.
Despite a few problems, he and others with physical and developmental disabilities, along with some advocates for the disabled, gave high marks to the new transit center for accessibility.
One of those problems was the front door, which can open automatically.
Margie Villa, a benefits specialist for Visalia's Center for Independent Living, discovered the door opened too fast for her to get her electric wheelchair out of the way.
A co-worker, also a wheelchair-user, had trouble reaching the door's activation switch, behind a pillar, so the group suggested moving it.
Monty Cox, Visalia's transit manager who invited the group for a private tour of the new depot, listened to the comments, often agreeing.
"We can work on that," he said of the front door and bathroom problems. He added that he would look into Villa's suggestion of painting the curb to the bus stop areas so people in wheelchairs could better see if they back to too close to the edge.
But Keller and his companions said the problems they found were "easily fixable" and overall were pleased with the depot.
They credited part of that to the city's bringing their initial plans for the depot to the Visalia City Council's Disability Advocacy Committee to get input on making sure the building was disabled friendly.
"I look at it as it saves the city some money," said Robin Libbee, manger
of the Center for Independent Living, who is sight impaired. "If they're
going to build a building, it's cheaper to make the changes beforehand."
Copyright © 2004, Visalia Times-Delta