Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Time for city to get serious about accessibility?

VWB member April Stefel displays District sign at Council Monday evening;
photo snapped from my wheelchair vantage.

My trip to Plainfield's City Council agenda session on Monday evening turned out to be an adventure that made me think about the matter of accessibility at City buildings, or rather the lack of it.

When I worked at City Hall, I regularly did the staircase two steps at a time and almost didn't notice that there was an elevator by the rear entrance (which I only saw in use once).

Having to use a wheelchair until I get and learn to walk on a prosthesis has been an eye-opening experience.

I thought to call the City Clerk's office on Monday to ask about the elevator and Municipal Clerk Jalloh said he was glad I had called because arrangements needed to be made to get the elevator unlocked. We agreed I would call him when I arrived in the parking lot and someone would unlock the elevator.

Turns out that someone was a maintenance worker who happened to be on his supper break. After waiting about ten minutes in the chilly, windy parking lot, the maintenance worker roared into the lot and parked, quickly running up the stairs to operate the elevator.

The friend who brought me had to wait with me at the bottom and open the door once the elevator bed had descended. The cage is kind of spooky as there is no sort of light in or above it, so one rides in total darkness. And one only rides as long as the person at the top holds their finger on the power button. Quite a bizarre system, but I suppose potential liability issues play a part.

Once on the rotunda level, all seemed fine -- except that the double doors into the Library needed to be opened as the single doorway does not accommodate a wheelchair's width.

The Library itself was quite easy to navigate in (at least up to the cords for the Clerk's recording equipment) and I was able to park myself alongside fellow bloggers Dr. Yood and Bernice Paglia.

Leaving the building, I could see that all the other floors were easily available by way of the elevator near the Clerk's office. I did notice, though, that the men's room by the back door would be impossible for someone in a wheelchair to use -- the door was too narrow and would not open even 90ยบ because of its being set in a curved wall.

One would think that more than 20 years after the ADA act laid out basic accessibility as a civil right, Plainfield's government buildings would be in better compliance.

Perhaps it's time for City Council to appoint a task force to look into the issue and make recommendations to the City.

Any volunteers?

Meanwhile, I've got to try and figure out the easiest way to get into the Courthouse for next Monday's Council business session.

Think about that one.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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olddoc said...

Since by law the City Court MUST BE HANDICAP ACCESSIBLE the only way would have to be through the Police Station.

Good to see you

Siddeeq said...


You can use the front entry to the Police Division. It is wheel chair accessible. Then they will open the inside door to the court area.

pat fox said...

Not sure the City ever installed an elevator in the City Hall Annex. We had that listed as a $52,000 project for CDBG funds back in 2000 era but never got the approval for it...Never heard it was implemented since.

Anonymous said...

I well remember when the MTA buses in NYC had to become handicapped accessible. Trouble was, not all of the drivers were able to operate the lift, et al.

I hope that this city will catch up to your needs...

Anonymous said...

The City was suppose to install an elevator in the Annex when the building was purchased as the amount in renovations required them to but they never did that.