Friday, June 22, 2001
Finding a parking spot in downtown Lawrence isn't always easy ï¿½ and it has been even more difficult for people with disabilities.
Now the city is installing wheelchair-accessible parking spots along each block of downtown Massachusetts Street.
"We've always had a few accessible stalls along the east-west (downtown) streets, but we'd never had any on Mass.," said Tamara Bennett, the city's Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator. "So we're installing two per block, one on each side."
Bennett said handicapped accessible parking stalls on Massachusetts Street had been under consideration for a decade.
"It has always been one of those unresolved issues on the table," she said.
Bob Mikesic, chair of Independence Inc.'s Access Task Force, agreed. "It's definitely needed," he said. "Downtown parking is an issue that affects the entire community, and people with disabilities also go downtown."
The reason for the difficulty: the "sawtooth" design of the parking spots along the street. The solution was to designate an existing parking space as accessible and the adjacent space as an access aisle. For the access aisles, the city extended the curb out into the parking space and raised it to sidewalk level to provide an even surface for use by lift-vans. The stalls are located at mid-block.
"It's a real good design for people who use vans and have lifts," Mikesic said. "There's also room for people who get out on the driver's side and use their chair from there."
Eight parking spots are being installed, taking 16 spots out of service for regular use. Bob Schumm, who owns several downtown restaurants, said the spots will be handy when his father, Ed, who has a breathing problem and is allowed to use parking spots for the impaired, comes to visit.
"I don't think it'll have any net effect on businesses," he said. "I'm glad the city's decided to put these in."
So is Mikesic.
"They did a real good job," Mikesic said. "I think everybody's going to appreciate it."
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