Letters: Improving Access

On behalf of the many disabled people who live in our area, as well as our tourists, I am grateful that Cold Spring and Beacon have modified sidewalks to make it easier for us to access the facilities the village and city have to offer. However, access to many stores and businesses is still difficult, if not impossible.

While I realize the difficulty of providing easy access to these establishments, building owners must realize that “the problem is not our disability, the problem is accessibility.” For example, many of the stores along Main Street in Cold Spring are inaccessible to people with wheelchairs and difficult for the disabled who are relatively mobile, as I am. There are no ramps, no handrails, nothing to help us. In addition, many of the businesses that provide public restrooms have not modified them for use by the disabled.

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on disabilities in public accommodations, and clearly states the guidelines to accommodate the disabled. It requires businesses that serve the public to remove physical barriers preventing access. As you walk down Main Street in Cold Spring or Beacon, you will see, for many establishments, this is not the case.

It is incumbent upon municipalities and landlords to abide by the ADA and provide easy access to all of us.

Fabiola Gomez, New Hamburg

The editor responds: Jennifer Perry, an access specialist with the Northeast ADA Center, a federally funded program based at Cornell University, says there are misconceptions about what building owners must do under the nearly 30-year-old ADA. Buildings built before the law went into effect for new construction in 1993 that are not accessible are not “grandfathered in,” as many people believe, but instead must make changes that are “readily achievable.” For example, she said, it may be prohibitively expensive to retrofit a building that has 10 steps at its entrance, but inaction is harder to justify if it has one step. See bit.ly/ada-small for guidance. New York State building code requires that ADA standards be incorporated during renovations except in cases where it is “technically infeasible,” Perry said. Complaints can be filed with the Department of Justice at ada.gov, which will decide if an investigation is warranted, or with the New York Department of State for building-code violations.

The ADA Route sign outside the Cold Spring medical building has since been removed.
(Photo by Bob Polastre)

It has been brought to my attention that the medical building leased to NewYork-Presbyterian/Hudson Valley Hospital does not have street access for disabled persons.

I found that hard to believe so I ran an experiment when I was there for an appointment. There is an ADA sign on the western entrance that points to either nowhere or infinity [see photo, right]. The street entrances of the hospital building are locked and the only other access means climbing a flight of stairs or walking through a parking lot to the sidewalk outside the post office. Am I missing something?

Bob Polastre, Cold Spring

You’re right; someone in a wheelchair can’t reach the entrance without going into Butterfield Road (which has about a 10 percent grade) or Julia Lane. Unicorn Contracting, which developed the property, referred us to the hospital. A representative there, Maxine Mitchell, responded: “Every patient and visitor should feel welcome at any of our facilities. We are a tenant of the building, which is ADA-compliant. But, as your reader pointed out, an improvement is needed to the building’s signage which directs visitors to the main entrance. We thank your reader for bringing this matter to our attention, and we will work closely with the building’s management to address the issue.”

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