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Rayburn Rogers at Jack Allen Recreation Complex, pointing out the distance from the handicapped parking sign to the nearest restrooms in the main building in the background.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Rayburn Rogers at Jack Allen Recreation Complex, pointing out the distance from the handicapped parking sign to the nearest restrooms in the main building in the background.

Decatur named in ADA filing
Disabled man says facilities inadequate

By Chris Paschenko
chris@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

Frustration over wheelchair accessibility at city facilities has a disabled Decatur man seeking federal assistance.

Rayburn Rogers filed a discrimination complaint in January with the U.S. Department of Justice under the Civil Rights Division of the Americans with Disability Act. In the complaint, he accused local officials of refusing to implement reasonable accommodations for the physically challenged.

Among Rogers' chief complaints are too few handicapped-parking spaces at City Hall and at city parks, including the Jack Allen Recreation Complex, which opened last year.

"Millions of dollars has been spent on sports and recreation such as soccer and competition tennis courts," Rogers said in his complaint. "Nothing has been spent for special needs kids."

Decatur Mayor Don Kyle said he would investigate Rogers' complaints, including the two designated handicapped spaces among the roughly 165 off-street, general-public parking spots at City Hall.

"I'm looking at new locations to replace those spaces," Kyle said.

"Hopefully, we'll have more on the north side. The two we have on the north side do not comply because there is a little bit of a slope. Based on my understanding, they should be level."

The Morgan County Courthouse has seven handicapped spots among its 117 off-street spaces that provide direct access to the building without crossing a city street.

Jimmy Brothers, director of the city's Building Department, is in charge of the city's ADA-compliance issues.

He said it would take the U.S. Department of Justice about six months to investigate the complaint.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice was unable to confirm the receipt of Rogers' complaint, saying there is no database to research the thousands of complaints received each year.

Brothers said Decatur architect Bill Aycock completed a thorough review of the city's ADA-compliance issues about eight years ago.

"The plan fell off the edge of the table after it wasn't funded," Brothers said. "It was going to be a long-term project, and we would have been through with it by now."

Brothers said Aycock's estimate was at least $300,000 or more, but would be much more expensive to implement in 2007 dollars.

As for accommodations for disabled children, Brothers said the Parks and Recreation Department implemented a swimming program at the Aquadome, which is part of the Special Olympics.

Another of Rogers' complaints points out inadequate wheelchair accessibility to restrooms at Jack Allen and Wilson Morgan Park.

City Councilman Ray Metzger, who uses a hearing aid, has frequently complained about being unable to hear 100 percent of all conversations during council work sessions on the seventh floor of City Hall.

The city responded by installing two microphones, one for speakers addressing council and another placed on foldaway tables for the council to respond.

The microphone used for public comments frequently shocks anyone who touches it.

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