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Mauldin Makes Meeting ADA Standards a Priority
January 20, 2016
Source: Greenville Online
What began as a simple request from a church to utilize Mauldins Ray Hopkins Senior Center for Sunday services has led city officials to make sure all of the city facilities meet current ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards.
When Freedom Church asked for use of the Senior Centers gymnasium on Sundays, a time the facility was rarely in use, Mauldin City Council was on board. However, Councilman Larry Goodson questioned if having church services there changed the facilitys use to an assembly and thus changed building codes.
As it turns out, the Senior Centers standards met the needs for Freedom Church, which has been holding services there for a few months now. However that hasnt stopped Mauldin from beginning the inspection process of all of its facilities to make sure they meet current ADA standards.
Mauldin [South Carolina]officials have done this with the assistance of Greenville CAN (Collaborative Action Network), which was created in 2013.
“Greenville CAN is a network of agencies that serve people with disabilities, professionals, parents and caregivers,” said Mike Teachey, Lead Facilitator of Greenville CAN. “We all came together with a goal of trying to make Greenville a better place to live for people with disabilities.”
Greenville CAN has a number of workgroups focused on different topics such as recreation and transportation.
Teachey said that while ADA standards were put into place about 25 years ago, most communities havent fully included all of those provisions. He added that the details of the provisions can be confusing for builders and architects.
ADA is a federal civil rights legislation. Teachey said failure to comply with ADA standards that results in a disabled person not being able to access a building, facility or a program, could bring a review from the Department of Justice.
“There are actually communities where the Department (of Justice) has come in and said, OK were going to look at everything and give you three years to bring everything up to compliance or were going to fine you every day until you do. Thats worst case scenario,” Teachey said. “Obviously, theres not one community in America thats completely where it needs to be, so theyve got their hands full.
“Its all complaint driven, so it would have to come from somebody.”
Cities are supposed to perform a self-evaluation where they look at all of their facilities, then develop a transition plan. The transition plan guides a city to make sure certain issues are brought to compliance over a period of time.
Greenville CAN provides support for cities through things such as ADA training workshops, which were held last week at Greenville County Square.
“It seems like that even though all of this should have been done a long time ago, now that everyone in our area has become aware of the fact that this really hasnt been done, everyones really sort of jumping on board and doing what needs to be done,” Teachey said.
Teachey said its easy for ADA standards to get lost in the shuffle when it comes to city planning. He admits that even he hasnt been immune to that.
“The first time we did this training, I put a bunch of snacks on a counter that came up to my chest,” Teachey said. “We had a couple of people in wheelchairs in attendance, who couldnt reach the snacks.”
Teachey said different parts of Greenville County, including the cities of Greenville, Greer and Mauldin, have gotten heavily involved with the group.
In the past year, Greer completed a self-evaluation, appointed an ADA coordinator and put together a transition plan, Teachey said. “Mauldins really kind of been the next in line.
“What Im seeing in places like Mauldin is that they are looking at this not because they have to, but because they realize its the right thing to do. Thats really important and its really refreshing to see.”
Greer city officials were spurred to get their facilities in check following an incident in early 2015.
Sandy Hanebrink was not able to move her wheelchair up an incline in the parking lot to open the door at Greer City Hall.
“It was an unfortunate incident, but its turned into a very positive thing,” Hanebrink said, noting that Greer and other municipalities put an ADA coordinator in place after this incident.
Hanebrink said the incident wasnt handled well the day it happened. She said by the next day though, Greer already had the wheels in motion to make things right.
“It was the fastest positive response Ive ever seen … and they havent stopped,” Hanebrink said.
Hanebrink is the executive director of Touch the Future, a non-profit thats based in Anderson but serves the entire state. Shes also on the leadership team of Greenville CAN and was one of the instructors at the County Square workshops.
The workshops drew speakers from different parts of the country and visitors from throughout the state.
“Were going over the standards, but were also looking at the International Building Code, which is our state code for accessibility and how they are similar and how they differ from ADA,” Hanebrink said. “Its a very unique opportunity to have this type of national-level training available in our backyard.”
Mauldin had three representatives at the workshops: ADA coordinator Kim Hamel, whos also Mauldins Business and Development Services director; Mauldin Cultural Center director George McLeer and Mauldin Parks and Recreation director Van Brannon.
Mauldin has a history of helping those with special needs and disabilities. Mayor Dennis Raines helped create the Mauldin Miracle League in 2005. The league provides children and young adults with physical and developmental challenges a place to play baseball, and an accessible field for them to play at Sunset Park.
“Thats something we are very proud to have,” Hamel said. “Weve got some work to do now, but were going to do it.”
Hamel said Hanebrinks incident in Greer put this issue at the forefront for everyone. Soon after, Hamel took on Mauldins role of ADA coordinator.
Mauldins thorough ADA inspection project is ongoing. Inspections at the Senior Center and Cultural Center are complete. Sunset Parks inspection is 75 percent complete.
“The councils priority was the Senior Center first then the Cultural Center because those are our biggest places for public gatherings,” Hamel said.
Hamel said she would wait until all inspections are done before coming back to City Council with a full report. She added that the current timing of the inspections will allow for needed updates to be included as a line item in the 2016-17 fiscal budget.
Hanebrink has been impressed with Mauldin City Councils involvement in the process, as well as having improvements planned for the next budget. Mauldin also is using Touch the Future as an ADA consultant to help evaluate every building, park and facility.
“The city of Mauldin, in my opinion, has the most effective ADA policies and procedures in place,” Hanebrink said. “Kim Hamel has the authority to make decisions. She can actually help designate work towards it.
“Its very exciting what theyre doing.”
FOR MORE INFO
For more information about Greenville CAN [Collaborative Action Network], visit greenvillecan.org.
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