WXXI AM News

accessibility

Ericka Jones

When Erica Jones looks for a place to call home, her must-haves are non-negotiable.

“Can I get through the front door? Are there steps? And can I get inside the bathroom and turn around?" she asked. 

Jones uses a wheelchair, so space is important.

“If I can't maneuver the bathroom, that deems the entire apartment unlivable,” she said.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 made public spaces more accessible, but many of the civil rights law’s regulations don’t apply to residential housing.


COVID-19 has meant some difficult times for a lot of people, but those living with disabilities have been facing unique challenges.

A WXXI live forum on the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities aired Thursday night on WXXI TV and radio. The virtual forum featured interviews with people who have disabilities or who are working with those with disabilities.

Memorial Art Gallery

Earlier this month, people around the world sat down to watch "Hamilton" -- the Broadway musical phenomenon written by Lin-Manuel Miranda about the titular founding father.

And they did so from their own homes, giving everyone with a Disney+ subscription access to a show they might not have seen otherwise.

Imagine if art was this accessible all the time.

“It’s not hard to do,” says Gregg Beratan, director of development for the Center for Disability Rights in Rochester. “We have decades of research of making venues more accessible.”

It’s been 30 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, mandating public spaces be accessible to all. But it’s still an ongoing battle.

SASHA-ANN SIMONS/WXXI NEWS

Barry Culhane is counting the days until he can finally walk unassisted again.

“I walked into a herniated disc surgery and woke up paralyzed, never expecting that,” says Culhane, who has only gained back some feeling in his legs since then.

Given his positive outlook over the last three years adjusting to life mostly in a wheelchair and decades-long involvement with the Al Sigl Community of Agencies, it comes as no surprise to his peers that Culhane has handled the physical setback so well.

Ryan Delaney/WRVO

It takes several tries for the medical transport van to back up the snow-covered driveway and onto the frozen front yard. The tires spin in the snow, which crunches in the cold air. The van has to get close enough for the ramp that slides out the back to bridge the gap from the van to the porch, rising over the three steps to the door.

SASHA-ANN SIMONS/WXXI

“There aren’t many accessible homes for people with disabilities. And when they are accessible, they’re usually too expensive or segregated,” says 24-year-old wheelchair user, Jensen Caraballo.

It’s been 25 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act established a mandate that five percent of all federally assisted housing developments must be accessible for persons with mobility disabilities.

Reporting in upstate New York from Innovation Trail reporters indicates that many New Yorkers living with disabilities still face challenges accessing services and difficult choices balancing quality of life and affordability.

(Videos after the jump)