Mandeville working to be ADA accessible

BY Leslie Ackel

MANDEVILLE - Mandeville officials were on the ball in removing barriers when cities across the nation were instructed by federal law to bring their government buildings into compliance with the directives of the civil rights act of 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Mandeville inspectors have assessed their compliance with ADA by completing a thorough checklist furnished by the ADA's Disability and Technical Assistance Center. The checklist gave Mandeville public works department officials a head start on installing railings, ramps, entrances, pathways and telecommunication equipment in their city facilities to lead them in their effort to become ADA compliant.

Access to civic life by people with disabilities is a fundamental goal of the Americans with Disabilities Act. To ensure this goal is met, Title II of the ADA requires state and local governments to make their programs and services accessible to persons with disabilities.

This requirement extends not only to physical access at governmental facilities, programs and events, but also to policy changes that governmental entities must make to ensure all people with disabilities can take part in, and benefit from, programs and services of state and local governments.

In addition, governmental entities must ensure effective communication, including the provision of necessary auxiliary aids and services so that individuals with disabilities can participate in civic life.

Not only has the city of Mandeville taken huge strides in removing barriers to make their public and governmental buildings accessible to people with disabilities, they are also passing new laws that will guarantee violators of the civil rights act are made aware of their noncompliance.

Mandeville officials have established hefty fines for violators parking in handicap parking spaces and are requesting new multi-family dwellings be designed with "visitability" standards in mind. Wayne Berggren, the city of Mandeville's code enforcement officer, doubles up as the building inspector for accessibility.

"I will not approve a business opening until they are in total compliance with the ADAG (Americans with Disabilities Guidelines) standards," he said.

After fire marshal's office personnel complete their assessments, Berggren said he returns to the new business to give the final CIO (Certificate of Inspector Office) that allows a business to open its doors for service.

Although Mandeville's city facilities are nearly in full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, there is still room for improvement in the area of Program Access. The News Banner, along with Yadi Mark, a Governor's Advisory board member, and Roy Geohegan, assistant public works supervisor, toured Mandeville City Hall and the Mandeville Police Station to look over compliance issues.

At Mandeville City Hall, built in 1974, one year after the original ADA mandate was handed down in 1973, the survey found the parking lot is fitted with multiple, properly marked handicapped accessible parking spaces. The spaces are properly striped fulfilling the requirements of the 8-foot-wide spaces with adjoining 5-foot-wide access isles and visibly designated signs.

From the parking spaces, a wheelchair user or elderly person can easily take the sloped and railed walkways to the building's entrance. The main entrance and doorway passages are easily negotiated because the widths are in compliance with the required opening of 32 inches.

The area currently not accessible for a wheelchair user inside City Council chambers is the dais where council members sit and the podium from which the public addresses the council.

"If a person in a wheelchair was asked to serve on a board or wins a city election, they wouldn't be able to sit at the dais or access the microphones," said Mark.

Steps are the only form of entrance onto the platform, and it was recommended the city purchase a removable ramp to keep nearby if the occasion arises that wheelchair accessibility is needed.

The adequately sized restrooms for both men and women visitors and employees have been properly fitted with raised toilet seats and 5-foot-wide stall designs, and the pipes beneath the wall-mounted lavatories are safely insulated.

"If the pipes are not insulated, a person without sensory feeling could burn their legs without detection," said Mark.

It was recommended the grab bars surrounding the toilets be raised to a height of not more than 36 inches but no less than 30 inches for convenience of side-transferring from a wheelchair onto the toilet seat. The soap and towel dispensers are mounted properly and at heights within reach of wheelchair users.

All doorways and isles throughout the building have sufficient area for passage and workspaces are clear.

Police headquarters, built in 1983 and renovated in 1987, had its barriers removed. However, both employee restrooms remain inaccessible to a wheelchair user. Proper signage is also missing.

The front entrance door to the station is equipped with the proper lever hardware and all interior doors, as inside City Hall, weigh no more than five pounds. Handicapped parking is available, and the walkway slope complies with ADA standard.

The Mandeville City Police Department employs a systems supervisor, Charles Simoneaux, whose job it is to oversee telecommunications within the communications headquarters of the police station.

"Our dispatchers train regularly to remain proficient in the use of the TDDs, or Telephone Decipherer's for the Deaf," Simoneaux said. "Once a week they complete tests with the Sheriff's Office."

Also, the Mandeville Trailhead is fitted with curb cuts throughout all its sidewalks and has the correct amount of handicapped accessible parking spaces, properly designated and marked and with stripped access isles and van accessibility.

City clerk Caroline Lightfoot said auxiliary aids, such as qualified interpreters, telephone handset amplifiers and braille materials, are not readily available.


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