Meeting the minimum

There’s access and there’s access. As well as editing Access Press, I do freelance writing for community papers in St. […]

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There’s access and there’s access.

As well as editing Access Press, I do freelance writing for community papers in St. Paul. I have always loved the City Hall/Courthouse. It’s a lovely Art Deco style building. But it was built at a time when accessibly was not an issue.

My colleague James Walsh from the Star Tribune recently wrote an article about his difficulty getting out of the St. Paul City Hall/Ramsey County Courthouse one night after a City Council meeting. We linked the story in our e-newsletter, Access Presas Express.

Walsh uses a chair and cutches due to his MS. He and his family have had to make many adjustments to their lives, including moving to a more accessible home.

I have known Walsh since he interned at one of the papers I write for, and I have great respect for the fact that he keeps moving forward. He’s a great journalist and a great person.

But his late stay to file a story meant he had to travel all over the CH/CH to find a way out. The skyway access closes at 5 p.m. so there is no direct access to parking ramps or to bus stops via the skyways. He had to go outside and is fortunate that we didn’t have the same type of winter that we had last winter.

I’ve had that experience at the CH/CH and while I can still walk, I struggle with heavy doors. I once got stuck in a stairwell and had to pound on the door until someone heard me.

Getting out the ground floor doors after 5 p.m. means pressing on the disability paddle. It sometimes takes a hard push.

I cannot wear a brace because I get hassled by some of the security guards. I once had a man joke that I needed to take of my clothes. Really?

I had a sheriff’s deputy tell me recently that he didn’t like reporters and of course county officials have not even responded to that complaint. I don’t expect one. But it’s not a comfortable work situation for me on that level and on the access level.

I had to file an ADA complaint to get a sign posted for City Council meetings to remind folks to not wear excessive scent at meetings. No one reads it. I’ve gotten physically ill after meetings, and often watch online rather than have breathing problems or start vomiting.

There’s been social media pushback against this. I understand cultural issues and scent but I need to be able to breathe and not get sick while trying to work.

I always say that I’ll be long gone by the time we people with disabilities get our civil rights respected and met. I am glad the Star Tribune raised the issues. I just wish officials would listen to everyone.

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Mental Wellness