From May 1, 2009–The ART of Accesibility

Posted on January 3, 2011

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Spinning on Our Access     // Edit
   

   One of the primary missions of our page has been the restoration and enhancement of access for persons with mobility challenges in Ward Nine, and recently we extended those efforts to Ward 8.  The Arts Society of Kingston is undertaking a very inclusive (and expensive) retrofitting process that will make the gallery and the theater facilities upstairs, completely accesible to people with mobility challenges.  There is going to an elevator, a ramped exterior, and dozens of other enhancements that will make it easier for all of us to enjoy all this fine arts society has to offer.

     Or will it?
     This spring I was almost hit by a car turning left to travel down Broadway, as I was struggling in the ice and slush to get from the police parking lot over to ASK for the opening . I began to notice that there was no parking for persons with mobility challenges outside of ASK.  A Catskill artist with a balence deficite disorder similar to mine found she was unable to pick up her art work from ASK because when she parked outside of the gallery with the flashers on, she got parking tickets.  (It is a no parking zone.)  This started me wondering how the workmen are going to unload all the equipment for the elevator and the wood for the ramp if they have to carry it all the way from Kingston Police Headquarters.  It certainly seemed like there was need for a Loading Zone outside of ASK, that would also be handy for the Rondout Neighborhood Center, Donskoj, and the soon-to-open Jewish Museum.
         Unfortunately. the Public Safety Committee of the Kingston Common Council did not agree with the disabled artists endangered by lack of accesible parking.  Alderman Bob Senor who is the Alderman for Ward 8 and ASK felt that there was adequate “handicapped parking” at Gallo Park and the Police Station.   April 7 the Common Council passed a local law granting one “handicapped parking space” on Spring Street. no loading zone, and no other reserved parking for persons with disabling conditions on either Broadway or Abeel Street.
    I brought the situation to the attention of the Resource Center for Accesible Living, which has always been very helpful in our efforts to promote access.   They could not make it to the April 7 meeting, but Mary Anne, an evaluator at RCAL, visited the scene and called me with some veeeeeeery interesting information.
    It was Mary Anne’s evaluation that THERE CANNOT BE SAFE PARKING FOR PERSONS WITH MOBILITY CHALLENGES ON LOWER BROADWAY.   She feels that the grade is so steep (and there were other factors involved) that there is no safe way for persons with disabilities to park on the street on Lower Broadway.
    The implications of this evaluation are enormous.   ASK is undertaking a gigantic retrofitting renovation, some of it financed by taxpayer dollars, when it is the opinion of an expereinced evaluator that people with mobility challenges cannot safely reach the gallery?   Is this a gigantic waste of time, money and effort?   What are the implications of this for future development of the Rondout as a tourist destination?  Should galleries be required to develop off the street level parking facilities, or will we need a golf-cart like shuttle so that persons with mobility challenges can safely use the existing parking?  Didn”t ANYONE ask these questions before the ASK project was funded and undertaken?
    Enquiring minds want to know.  It isn’t just the access, its the taxes.   If persons with disabilities can’t safely enjoy events in the Rondout, should our tax dollars go to support them?  Of course, this year there won’tbe any fireworks on the creek on Independence Day, but after one year’s Independence Day Celebration, I was one of a dozen people who had to help my friend Timmy get his motorized transporter up the Rondout Hill.   The battery went dead during the fireworks and Tim’s family was parked in the police station lot.   It was impossible to get the van down to the creek, so a dozen people had to push the one ton transporter up the hill from Gallo Park to the Police lot.   Perhaps needless to say, that was the last year Tim went to the Rondout for the fireworks.
   It gives “handicapped parking” a whole new meaning, when it is the parking, and not the consumer, that has the handicap!
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