Future leader: Annie Simon

Simon helping improve access for handicapped residents

Covington News Banner
March 7, 2003
By Sarah Hunt

ABITA SPRINGS - Armed with a tape measure, Abita Springs resident Annie Anne Simon measures the length and height of the handicap accessible ramp outside town hall as residents walk by and congratulate her.

Ordinarily Simon's not used to this much attention from complete strangers, but a simple letter to Abita Springs Mayor Louis Fitzmorris has made her a local celebrity in the small community and raised the awareness of many residents.

Simon, 15, a freshman at St. Scholastica Academy in Covington, has been researching the Americans with Disabilities Act since she was in the sixth grade and recently wrote a letter to Fitzmorris alerting him that although the ramp outside of town hall is in compliance with ADA requirements, the slope is still too steep for some wheelchair users.

Fitzmorris was so impressed with Simon's letter he recently read it aloud at the Feb. 18 meeting of the town's Board of Alderman. Since that time he has met with Simon and agreed to help her cause any way he can.

Simon, whose father Scott is wheelchair-bound, is hoping to have a new ramp at town hall by the end of March. When she began her research almost three years ago she measured the entrances and ramps of government buildings across the parish and was surprised by how many were not ADA compliant.

"I focused mainly on entrances because the first step is being able to get into the building," she said. "It is no good if you can't even get in the door."

Simon said she became interested in the law because of her father's disability but has become increasingly more interested in making the community aware. She is hoping to bring change to the parish, not only for her father, but for other disabled residents as well.

According, to ADA requirements a ramp must travel 12 inches in length for every one inch it comes off the ground to cover the law, but 16 inches for every one inch is preferred. The ramp at the Abita Springs Town Hall meets the one in 12 requirement, but Simon hopes the mayor will help her make the ramp easier for wheelchair users.

"I am able to make it up the ramp," Scott Simon said. "It's going to be a lot more difficult for someone not in peak physical condition, though."

The current length of the ramp is 20 feet, and to meet the new requirement it must be at least 26 feet. Simon has enlisted the help of local architect Steve Ratley to help draw up some plans for the proposed ramp and is hoping to have all of the materials donated from within the community. Simon and her father have meetings scheduled with the town's historical commission and hope to come up with a plan that is accessible as well as aesthetically pleasing to the old town hall.

"I'm just trying to make the community more aware and hopefully get them involved in this project," Simon said. "People have already shown an interest, and I am confident the materials will come with time."


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