ANDERSON, Ind. —
Door handles that can be opened with a closed fist.
Government office counters where the wheelchair-bound can easily transact business.
And public meeting rooms with doors wide enough so those same people can enter without assistance and comfortably watch their government in action.
These are some of the changes that will make the Madison County Government Center more accessible under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), according to a draft “transition plan” written by the Madison County Council of Governments.
Madison County’s new plan to address ADA concerns is just one of 13 the regional planning agency has been working on since late 2011, said Planning Manager Allan Henderson. The agency prepared similar reports for every Madison County city and town, as well as Daleville in Delaware County, and Fortville in Hancock County.
Federal laws to remove barriers to public access have been in place since the early 1970s, and were strengthened with the enactment of new ADA requirements in 1990.
After an initial burst of activity, efforts to comply with the law have slowed in the intervening years, leading to some costly lawsuits brought against local governments. Other communities took notice and renewed efforts to meet the requirements, said Henderson.
The goal of ADA is to minimize or eliminate discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
Under the regulations, structural, architectural and communication barriers must be removed in public areas of existing facilities.
Modifications must be readily achievable, according to the plan, meaning they must be possible to carry out without unfair difficulty or unreasonable expense.
In addition to public buildings, the rules apply to parks, sidewalks, curbs and ramps, and pedestrian signals. All these facilities were assessed in the latest plan to determine what modifications will be necessary.
The plan identifies 10 facilities owned by the county that are routinely used by the public.
Priority 1 buildings are used by employees and have a high potential for public use. Priority 2 buildings are used by employees, but have only moderate potential for public use:
- At the heart of Madison County government and its legal establishment is the Government Center in Anderson.
Recommended short-term modifications on the first floor include new door handles, replacing signs, lowering counters or providing alternative access options such as designating employees to meet with disabled patrons individually; and providing designated wheelchair seating space at public tables.
Other changes, such as providing at least two handicap seating spaces and increasing aisle widths in Room 110 (The Madison County Board of Commissioners courtroom), and increasing door widths, will cost more and take longer to implement.
Changes necessary on the second and third floors are similar to the first. However, accessible restrooms and a jury restroom will require major renovations and could take three to five years to complete. To keep costs down, the plan recommends only renovating one jury restroom to comply with ADA standards.
Four circuit courts are located on the fourth floor of government center and it has the most public traffic. New door handles and signs are needed; wheelchair seating should be offered at designated tables. There are four jury rooms, and each requires at least one restroom to be renovated for compliance, according to the draft plan.
- The Madison County Government Center Annex houses the Madison County Health Department. Here, too, new door handles and reducing door resistance are high priorities. In addition, restroom renovations are required. This work could be completed in three to five years.
- The Juvenile Detention Center on Mounds Road has four buildings with public access — the administration building, Novia Health Clinic, Oakwood Corner and Sycamore Place.
Juvenile court, probation and administrative services are handled in the administration building. Four van accessible parking spaces are located near the main entrance. Because of obstacles that currently exist, several modifications are needed at the front entrance. Inside the building, door weight reductions are needed, as is wheelchair seating. Three public restrooms also need renovation.
- Sycamore Place is the main residential building. A handicapped parking space is needed; a ramp slope needs modification; restrooms need renovations, and drinking fountains need to be lowered.
The Novia Health Clinic is a building for employee health services with limited public access. Upgrades to parking are required; entrance ramp slopes need adjusting, and restrooms require modifications.
According to the plan, the government center and annex have the highest priority, and changes to comply with ADA standards should begin this year.
In 2014, modifications should begin at the Juvenile Detention Center, Community Justice Center — including the visitation and training center.
Beginning in 2015, compliance upgrades should start at the Madison County Jail, highway department, emergency operations center and a second annex facility.
Henderson said the Council of Governments is seeking public comments on the draft plan for the next three weeks. A full copy of the plan is available at the agency’s website in the “what’s new” section: http://www.mccog.net/.
Public comments will be included in a final draft, which will be adopted by the Board of County Commissioners.