John Johnson, East Grand Forks, column: Library's access work is years overdue
By John Johnson EAST GRAND FORKS -- With the results of the citywide election now complete, officials of Grand Forks and the Library Board now must mull over their next course of action regarding the library and its services. One thing is clear: ...
By John Johnson
EAST GRAND FORKS -- With the results of the citywide election now complete, officials of Grand Forks and the Library Board now must mull over their next course of action regarding the library and its services.
One thing is clear: If no new library is to be built, several changes to the existing structure must occur.
In fact, some already should have taken place!
As a recent Herald story reported, the library building has issues that make access difficult for persons with disabilities ("Library gets complaint about access," Page A5, April 16).
The issues include bathrooms, shelves that are packed too close to each other and top shelves that demand reaching too high. All of these pose problems for people in wheelchairs as well as those who use other mobility devices such as walkers, scooters and so on.
In the story, Library Board chairman Susan Mickelson said access has long been a problem for the library, which was built decades before the Americans with Disabilities Act law passed.
The city's legal advisors told library officials that the library is not required to address the problem until someone complains, Mickelson said.
Wrong answer -- on two counts:
** The Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states "programs and structural changes should be made within three years," which would have been 1976 or 1977. This pertains to structures built that used or use federal funding. That was 38 years ago.
** The ADA act of 1990 states under Title II, section II-5-6000, that "public entities must achieve program accessibility by Jan. 26, 1992. If structural changes are needed to achieve program accessibility, they must be made as soon as possible or no later than Jan. 26, 1995."
Nineteen years have elapsed since the ADA was passed.
Clearly, the board's legal counsel either was misinformed or his or her advice was misinterpreted by the Library Board. In any event, the person who raised the access issue in the April 15 story is correct. The Library Board should take action to address this issue and correct their violation.
Johnson is an advocate/trainer at the Options Center for Independent Living.