Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Disability Advocates Address PPL Accessibility Problems

Disability advocate Debra Buell shows a keyboard after an inexpensive fix that makes it more usable for someone with vision limitations.

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY -- October 23, 2012

Sometimes as the solution is as simple as putting high-contrast stickers on a computer keyboard.

Other solutions involve much more work.

At the Tuesday evening meeting of the PPL Board of Trustees disability advocate Debra Buell pointed out problems that disabled patrons face when using the Plattsburgh Public Library.  She offered suggestions that would help those patrons with wheelchairs or walkers and those with vision or hearing limitations.  She was accompanied by Andrew Pulrang, Executive Director of the North Country Center for Independence.

Debra mentioned that she had been trying for around a decade to work with various  library directors on resolving issues affecting disabled patrons.  She provided the PPL Board an informational CD with videos and photographs documenting areas that needed attention such as the public computers and the photocopier.

She also included a video of the difficulties she encountered with her wheelchair fitting into the handicap stall in the women's restroom.  The stall wasn't long and deep enough, meaning that the door couldn't be closed for privacy because her chair stuck out.  Also, the set-up made it problematic for someone to ambulate out of a wheelchair by using the handrails; the grab bars were too far away.  With a measuring tape in hand she showed that the stall at its narrowest point -- where the paper dispenser was attached to a wall -- was about 29 inches wide, not 6 feet wide to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.

In her video Debra noted that money had been spent on making the stall more accessible but the renovations didn't go far enough.

She and Andrew suggested to the PPL Board was making a restroom unisex and handicap compliant, no stalls.

Suggestions were also made how to modify the public access computers so that people with vision and hearing difficulties would have less problems using them. Debra held up a netbook computer with high-contrast stickers on its keyboard that made it easier for the visually impaired to type.  The stickers, she said, were less than three dollars.

Interim PPL Director Russell Puschak said he was willing to work on improving accessibility.

This photograph by Debra Buell shows how her wheelchair is too big to fit into a bathroom stall at Plattsburgh Public Library.

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