Access Report


In this continuing series of stories on the subject of access for the disabled residents of CHA, I have learned some interesting facts: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been law for more than seven years but lack of compliance to its rules and regulations remains a significant factor. Federally funded housing such as that provided by CHA has been rather slow in implementing access measures and it is very difficult to determine who or what specific entity may be blamed for these infractions.

Eckhart Park News

As a resident of a senior citizens housing development, I am very pleased to congratulate the private management organization, Hispanic Housing Development Corporation, who came on board in the early spring 1997 to manage the two buildings of our Eckhart Park development, for an excellent job of handling a difficult situation which had existed for years under the previous CHA management.

One glaring ADA infraction was the missing ramps in the parking area between the two buildings at 847 N. Greenview, where I reside, and 838 N. Noble Ave., and this was covered in our first anniversary fall issue. Shortly after publication of that edition, the missing ramps were constructed and Hispanic Housing has been involved in other notable improvements with more pending.

At the first annual Christmas party in the Greenview building on Friday, December 19, certain individuals received recognition awards for their contributions to establishing cooperation between management and residents. Mary Burns, activities coordinator for the Erie Health Center, was recognized because a drop-in Center remains in the Greenview Development even though the health center moved out of the development several months ago.

Under the capable direction of Manager Marian Stewart, the Hispanic Housing Development staff consists of Assistant Manager Ada Torres, Elderly Services Coordinator Stacey D. Mullins, Administrative Assistant Velveata M. Hearon, Leasing Clerk Marilyn Lopez, Engineer Alex Bruno, Assistant Engineer Ricky Ward, maintenance workers James T. Davis-Green and Paul Ramon, and janitors Anthony Smith, DeJuan Martin and Mark Grandberry. With the recent increase in staff, this private management company is able to provide better and more sensitive services to the predominantly senior population of this CHA development.

Access Living

During my summer 1997 interview with Lawrence Gorski, director of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, I was advised that there were no exceptions to the ADA requirements. I have learned during my preparations for this story that there are some exceptions, including church buildings not involved in a government-funded operation such as a day care program, church-operated subsidized housing programs and certain other activities.

On Dec. 18, I interviewed Stephanie Kester, Karen Tamely and other staff members of Access Living. They discussed some rules and regulations involving ADA. We discussed the fact that NBC television in Chicago (WMAQ-TV Channel 5) at its broadcasting facility at 454 N. Columbus Drive has a studio on the second floor which is not accessible to individuals who use a wheelchair and others with mobility difficulties. This fact came to my attention when our development was contacted recently by the Jenny Jones Show and our residents were invited to become members of the studio audience. One resident who can only walk with the aid of a walker had to be carried up a flight of stairs to the studio where the show is taped.

Another problem has been new or fairly recent building construction without accessibility for those using wheelchairs or with other mobility impairment. In a recent random survey of such construction, it was discovered that 48 of 49 sites so investigated were out of compliance. All federally funded housing must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Public Transit Problems

An ongoing problem continues to exist with accessible transportation as provided by CTA Paratransit Operations. One particular carrier providing this service has of late been derelict in providing on-time service, despite fines levied against it. As a result of complaints by certain individuals, the penalties have included monitoring of service but the service continues to be inconsistent. When requesting service for the following day, it is always necessary to telephone the CTA Paratransit carrier at either 5 a.m. or 8 a.m. Monday through Friday or 6 a.m. or 8 a.m. Saturdays, Sundays or holidays.

While telephoning for transportation service, I once waited on the telephone for 42 minutes (5: 49 a.m. to 6:31 a.m.) on a Saturday for Sunday service. I failed to get through to an operator during that attempt and was on the phone again for 18 minutes (7:52 a.m. to 8:10 a.m.) before finally getting through to an operator and then scheduling my Sunday trips. I had earlier discussed this matter with another person who uses a wheelchair and was on the phone for over 1 hour and 45 minutes in attempting to schedule trips for the same destination for a Sunday.

It is obvious that much study needs to be given to the matter of improving access where disabled individuals are concerned and to level the playing field by decreasing the barriers which continue to exist in the solution to these problems. With the large number of disabled individuals in our nation including senior adults and children, a mammoth task is ahead of us and requires the dedication of our leaders in government, business and education to effectively address the issues involved.

At the 13th Annual Holiday Gala on Saturday, December 20, 1997, CHA officials said they are committed to improving their operations with respect to people with disabilities. At the Gala, presented by the Gladys L. Reed Senior Programs Division and Senior Housing Advisory Council, CHA Executive Director Joseph Shuldiner told the crowd that more funding would be committed to improving accessibility measures in senior housing.

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