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January 22, 2013

Champlain Centre alters handicapped access

PLATTSBURGH — Advocates for people with disabilities are concerned about changes Champlain Centre has made to some entrances. 

But mall officials say the alterations were necessary to comply with handicapped-accessibility laws.

The North Country Center for Independence, which provides advocacy and support for people with disabilities across the region, received a call in early December from a consumer who uses a wheelchair.

“She was going shopping and was going to enter (the mall) through the disabled-access entrance at JCPenney when she found that the curb cut (from the parking lot to the store) had been cemented over,” said John Farley, accessibility consultant for the Center for Independence. 

“When we received the call, we went ahead and took a look at what was going on. All but two of the west-side cuts were cemented over.”

TROUBLED BY CHANGE

Curb cuts are portions of curbing that are removed so the sidewalk and roadway are at even levels, allowing for easy access to the sidewalk or nearby business.

Another cut at the entrance near Wendell’s Furniture was filled in, and while a new curb cut was added several yards toward JCPenney, the change is troubling for the Center for Independence because it is directly adjacent to a loading zone.

Greg Lyman said he used to park near the JCPenney entrance to access the curb cut there with his wheelchair, but he now has to park near the Wendell’s entrance and use the access point next to the loading dock.

Advocates believe that is not a safe option for people with disabilities.

“If they’re saying the original curb cuts weren’t built to (required) standards, I’d have to believe the Town of Plattsburgh must have approved those standards at one time,” Lyman said.

“What happens if there’s an emergency, a fire in the mall, and people have to get out,” he added. “People in wheelchairs can’t get out without those curb cuts.”

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