ADA tour finds no major violations

Published 2:55 pm Thursday, July 15, 2010

A tour of the Picayune School District’s auditorium didn’t find any major violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but some small items needing correction were found.

Judy Sikes, who is the ADA coordinator with the Mississippi Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities, toured the facility Wednesday afternoon and only had some minor issues to point out to district officials.

She toured the facility follwoing to Frank Eggar’s complaint to the school board that a recent Senior Citizens’ Fair did not offer access to bathrooms that could be used easily by the disabled. There is a unisex bathroom for the disabled in the auditorium, but at that time it was blocked, according to a recent story in the Item.

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During Sikes’ tour she pointed out that the doors in the building need knobs that can be opened easily by a disabled person. Also, there appeared not to be enough spots inside the auditorium for wheel chairs to be parked during an event. According to ADA regulations, the auditorium, which can hold about 1,100 people, would need at least 12 spaces for wheelchairs. The auditorium currently has two.

When an event is held that includes a speaker, the organization holding the event is responsible to hire an interpreter for the hearing impaired at the organization’s expense, Sikes said.

Handicapped parking is provided at the auditorium, but Sikes said the parking and ramp at the front of the building needs to be moved to where the front door is located. She also pointed out that the building’s access ramp needs less of an incline. Sikes suggested a cheap and easy fix of installing a wooden ramp that would connect to the existing concrete ramp located at the side of the auditorium.

Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell said the changes that need to be made seem to be feasible, even with the school district’s tight budget.

There are penalties for a public building not maintaining ADA compliance. Sikes said if a person notices a building is not compliant, then a complaint can be filed, which will be heard by the Department of Justice. If the changes are not made and the facility is not made compliant, then federal funding could be lost.

She plans to return to the district at a later date to tour each school in the district.