Sunday, March 23, 2008

Access stories make the news

From NY Times, March 18.

The Chicago Sun-Times wrote March 21 about the growing popularity of visitable homes in Chicago as more people age into mobility impairments. "Under the City of Chicago Building Code, all planned developments and government-funded projects must include a minimum of 10 percent of the units that fall under visitability guidelines," according to the Sun-Times.

"It's really important to rethink how we build housing in a way that is inclusive to everyone -- cross-generational. Visitable homes are for the elderly and disabled, but also they're about families. If Mom or Dad has a disability, they can't visit or live with the family if there isn't proper access," Karen Tamley, commissioner of the Mayor's Office of People with Disabilities (MOPD), said in the article. "We're also talking about a housing stock that will be here for future generations. We want to allow people, if they choose, to age in place. If they break a hip, or can't get up or down stairs, well, a visitable home makes good sense."

In a related story, The Sun-Times wrote an article about young families selecting visitable homes because they better fit their lifestyle. "We basically bought a visitable home simply because we liked the floor plan," said Laura Grady, a 31-year-old stay-at-home mom. "I have two children and I like the fact that I don't have to carry them up and down the stairs every time we come and go."

In San Francisco, a federal class-action lawsuit is underway to provide more access at Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Ann Sieck, pictured above, has joined the lawsuit against the National Park Service and its Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which covers 75,000 acres of public land and 59 miles of Pacific shoreline. It includes landmarks like Alcatraz and Muir Woods.

"Federal law requires the Park Service to provide universal access to its land and attractions," The New York Times reported March 18. "Ms. Sieck and other people with disabilities say they cannot gain entry or use many of the Golden Gate area’s historic buildings, trails, museums, restrooms or water fountains."

“When I meet with a barrier — especially a man-made barrier like a wooden bridge with steps at the end — it gets me in the stomach,” said Sieck, 58, an avid hiker before her multiple sclerosis required wheelchair use. “It makes me angry, but it’s a feeling of impotent anger.”