BUCKHANNON — The City of Buckhannon sponsored an ADA awareness workshop called “Walk a Mile in my Shoes” on Mon., June 10. The workshop was held at the Buckhannon Safety Complex community training room. Jerry Arnold, Public Works Director, was the facilitator for the event.
Mayor David McCauley welcomed attendees and stressed Buckhannon’s commitment to making Buckhannon accessible for all residents, and applauded Arnold for putting on the awareness exercise. “It’s my great pleasure to welcome you to this wonderful workshop today,” Mayor McCauley said. “I applaud Jerry Arnold for putting on such a terrific exercise for us.”
“For going on 37 years now, I have sought to advance inclusivity in our community, McCauley went on to say. “Until 37 months ago, I didn’t have a pulpit upon which to preach, I just made subtle suggestions; but as mayor, I get to address captive audiences such as this one, about such things as today’s exercise.”
“What a lucky bunch you are, right?,” McCauley jokingly added. The mayor stressed the importance of a community that embraces inclusiveness. “We are all better when we have everyone,” McCauley stated The workshop included a power point presentation, a resident panel that commented on Buckhannon’s accessibility, and a chance for attendees to experience navigating the city using tools that impaired their vision and mobility.
Dr. Ronald Eck, a senior advisor and instructor for the West Virginia Local Technical Assistance Program, explained the history of the ADA and how it relates to public facilities. He talked about how the ramped curbs assist everyone in the community. “Curb ramps help parents with strollers, deliverymen, and even I benefit from them,” Eck said. “ADA compliance is important because it is the right thing to do.” “I know places to avoid when using my scooter,” Keith Wolverton said. “Marion street is a mess.” He went on to say, “If the sidewalk is no good, I am allowed on the street.” “More than half the businesses in town, I can’t enter with my scooter,” Wolverton added. “I am not complaining, I love where I live.” “I get asked all the time if I need help, and I feel fortunate to live in a place where people want to help,” Wolverton said.
B.J. Samples, a city resident who works downtown, sang the praises of the efforts of the city to provide accessibility for all residents. “I’m impressed the city has done so much work,” Samples said. “This is one of the best towns in the state for getting around.” “They have done a good job,” Samples said.
City Councilman, Dave Thomas, was also a resident panelist for the workshop. “It’s a challenge for me to keep a good part of my independence,” Thomas said. “I have been totally blind for 27 years, and made a commitment to myself to be as independent as possible.” Thomas praised the mayor saying, “We live in a great community in part due to the efforts of the mayor.” “People are much different today in regards to how they view people with disabilities,” Thomas said. “There are meetings, media, and Facebook to get out a positive message about people with physical challenges.”
Accessibility is important because everyone in the community benefits. Currently, West Virginia has the highest prevalence rate, 18.8%, of disability in the United States. Anyone could fall victim to acquiring temporary or permanent disabilities and may need access to public facilities. Being ADA compliant encourages all visitors to come downtown which is great for economic development. Also, being ADA compliant is required by law. According to the latest Census Bureau disability report in 2010, 56.7 million people in the United States experience some form of disability.
The City of Buckhannon has made great strides toward accomplishing the goals they have set toward providing accessibility for all residents. In the past five years, the city has repaired or replaced 43 percent of the sidewalks, and 56 percent of all curb ramps. The city has also made ADA accommodations at both major city parks.