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Beep calls for greater accessibility for New Yorkers

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams released a report earlier this month that called for city agencies and their buildings to be more accessible for New Yorkers, especially the disabled.

Adams joined disability advocates and released the report at a press conference at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Wednesday, July 15 to commemorate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Legacy Tour, a traveling exhibit to raise awareness about the ADA’s 25th anniversary.

The report, Access-Friendly NYC, detailed policy and standards recommendations to improve accessibility in the city beyond minimal compliance with the ADA.

“Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect as they move through Brooklyn and New York City, regardless of the challenges they face in getting to their destination,” Adams said. “Through Access-Friendly NYC, I am committed to moving all of our city’s stakeholders toward concrete reforms that will lead to a better embracing of all Brooklynites, including those with disabilities.”

Some of the standards the report calls for at city buildings include automatic door openers; a 36”-wide clear path; smooth, slip-resistant flooring with high contrast at a change in levels (including ramping); comfortable places to sit that have arm and back rests; walk-off mat edges that lie flat on the floor and do not create tripping hazards; wheelchair-accessible water fountains or coolers; and a public address system that is audible and delivered in multiple languages.

These guidelines come six months after Brooklyn Borough Hall went through renovations to improve its accessibility—specifically for the disabled—such as the removal of metal decorative gates that obstructed corridors, the addition of safety traction strips on stairs and grab bars in restrooms, and lowering the height of paper towel and soap dispensers in bathrooms.

“We did an audit of the building in February with officials and we recommended a number of potential fixes that were needed; not all of them are things we have,” said Stefan Ringel, communications director for Adams, who has been in office since January, 2014. “So it’s going to be an ongoing discussion with Department of Citywide Administrative Services and advocacy groups.”

However, some Brooklynites complain that it took too long for Borough Hall to show improvements.

“I complained about this for years,” said Ridgeite Jean Ryan, a former Community Board 10 member who uses a scooter. “It was really bad….I’ve actually quit going to Borough Hall.”

While Ringel said Borough Hall has seen positive changes and is moving towards greater accessibility for New Yorkers, he agrees that the building should have been improved long ago.

“In a relatively short amount of time, we have seen some concrete actions,” Ringel said. “And we know some actions have to be made at public buildings throughout New York City for all New Yorkers, including those with disabilities.”

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