Oneida County says they're making the inside of the Utica office building more accessible to disabled people, but some people want that idea expanded into the parking lot. They feel it's too difficult to get into the building. YNN's Andrew Sorensen explains what the county is doing to catch up to expectations for accessibility.
UTICA, N.Y. -- Pacquita Marrero worked with disabled people until three years ago. Something she never fully appreciated. Not until she was in their shoes.
"I had to have spinal surgery and it was in the surgery that my spinal cord was damaged," she explained.
Now she uses a walker to get around.
"By myself, it's hard to do anything, never mind trying to open a door," she said.
Then she had to come to the Oneida County Office Building to sort out some Medicaid paperwork.
"I asked security if there was a handicapped entrance, they said 'No,' there wasn't one," said Marrero.
She walked up the hill from the handicap spots and struggled with the door, feeling worse the whole way.
"Unknown, pushed to the side, not recognized," she said.
From the Charlotte Street side, it's even worse. Because of construction, there actually isn't currently a marked handicapped spot on the street, but from where it used to be, you had to walk uphill, through traffic more than 300 feet before you get to the next accessible sidewalk point and it's still a good way before you get to the door.
Oneida County DPW Deputy Commissioner Mark Laramie said, "We try to eliminate as many barriers that may not be specifically noted in the ADA compliance law, but are known to cause difficulty for people with disabilities."
Laramie said they go above and beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. That's why they actually do have a handicap entrance, tucked on the north side of the building, close to handicap parking.
"No I didn't know about the side entrance at all actually," said Marrero.
It's sort of subtle, possibly why Marrero and probably others might have missed it.
"And we can investigate that. If it is revealed that additional signage is required, than we can certainly install that very easily," said Laramie.
As they renovate the building, Marrero said she suggests a help desk to assist disabled people in finding other accessible services.
Oneida County DPW says it could take five more years to make the full building accessible.