Nearly three decades after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1991, the city of Norman is looking to reevaluate barriers against those with disabilities.
This will be just the second time the city has done a full evaluation of accessibility as mandated by the ADA — the first was in 1993. It could lead to increased mobility and inclusiveness for the estimated 12 to 13 percent of Cleveland County residents who are disabled.
The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and ensures they have the same opportunities as everyone else in their community.
This latest round of evaluations began in 2017 with a self-inspection plan by the consulting firm Kimley-Horn & Associates.
The first phase looked at three buildings, three parks, just under three miles of park sidewalk, 20 signalized intersections and eight miles of sidewalk corridors.
The first round of improvements based on those inspections was estimated to cost around $5 million. It was adopted on June 26, 2018.
Jack McMahan, Norman’s new and first ADA technician, is spearheading a proposal to establish a standing ADA Citizen Advisory Committee.
On May 7, McMahan spoke to the city council.
“How best to understand barriers unless we view them through the lens of various forms of disability?”
Adding to that, McMahan said, “The Citizen Advisory Committee … will help us achieve balance in looking at a variety of things going on both inside the city as well as inside the community to see what needs to be done first and how to achieve that.”
On Tuesday, McMahan will pitch his proposed 11-person committee to the city council. The proposed committee includes people familiar with disabilities, people with disabilities, professionals that work with people with disabilities and parents of people with disabilities. McMahan also worked to include people familiar with a diverse set of disabilities, including those with mobility, sensory and cognitive disabilities.
Chris Nanny, one of the proposed committee members, is hopeful about the committee.
“Accessibility is not just measurements,” said Nanny, who has cerebral palsy. “It’s not just doorways and ramps and being able to get in the bathroom.
“More importantly, it is really and truly equal, full access and participation to all programs, services and activities that the city offers. Allowing people to fully access, participate, and enjoy the benefits of all of those things.”
To Nanny, who has been on the Transportation Bond Committee and was previously the chair of the CART Access Advisory Committee, the most important issue the proposed committee could address is transportation. For 22 years, she has relied on the bus to get around with her motorized scooter, and while she believes it is a great service, she thinks there are things the Cleveland Area Rapid Transit (CART) system can do to improve.
“We need extended routes on weekends and weekday nights so people can get to things like the music festival and the art walk and the medieval fair and all of the wonderful festivals Norman does,” said Nanny.
Another thing she hopes the CART system will provide access to are more parks, such as the upcoming Ruby Grant Park. The plans for this new park, pioneered by McMahan, include accessible trails, a playground and a disc golf course. The current bus routes would not run by the park, however.
Part of the proposal for the ADA Citizen Advisory Committee includes six subcommittees: transportation, business relationships, emergency management, events, technology and housing. Those subcommittee members would most likely include a combination of main committee members and those familiar or with expertise on disabilities.
“The thing that is great about Norman is that we have passionate citizens,” said McMahan. “We have citizens that speak up and show up and those are incredibly valuable resources to the community. We want to make sure those voices are heard, and we don’t want to lose their interest and their voices and their passion so I think working through a committee and subcommittee relationship we can achieve the best outcomes.”
If confirmed, the main committee will meet either quarterly or bi-monthly. The first meeting would be in June.