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A shallow step at a doorway may not be a big deal for most residents of Bay Ridge. But, a height differential of just an inch or two can make the difference between getting in or remaining on the sidewalk for area resident Jean Ryan, who uses a wheelchair. Ryan, a member of Community Board 10, said she decided to speak up about the matter at the board after finding herself shut out of the boards Christmas party, Because of a four-inch step. This is what my life is like now, and what life is like for other wheelchair users, Ryan told fellow board members gathered in the community room at Shore Hill, 9000 Shore Road, for their December meeting. I use a wheelchair for freedom, not confinement, stressed Ryan, but when there are barriers, Im limited not by my disability but by the environment. That, unfortunately, happens way too often in Bay Ridge, attested Ryan. Bay Ridge is very inaccessible to wheelchairs, she told her listeners, noting, Some people really need wheelchairs but dont want to use them because they know they wont be able to get into the hairdressers, they wont be able to get into a restaurant they like, they wont be able to get into their doctors office. Its absolutely impossible for somebody in a wheelchair to become an active part of the community because they cant get into these places, Ryan went on a situation, she emphasized, that persists, despite the existence of the 16-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which Ryan called a weak law. Its also a law apparently more honored in the breach than the observance. People have to enforce it, Ryan contended. My challenge to you as leaders of Bay Ridge, she told the board members, is how to make Bay Ridge accessible to people with disabilities, now and in the future. How can this be done? While, Ryan said, her efforts to make different locations wheelchair-accessible have largely been met with huge resistance, there are steps that can be taken to get owners of different businesses to comply, such as turning down requests for sidewalk café permits from restaurants that are inaccessible. You have to do something, Ryan urged. Dont just go to your next meeting or restaurant and walk up the steps. Do something, say something. It really affects all of us. The board will soon be looking into the issue. After Ryan spoke, Craig Eaton, the retiring chairperson, committed the matter to the boards Health & Welfare Committee for investigation.
©2007 Community Newspaper Group
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