What if the door handle on a business was out of your reach, and you couldn’t enter the store?
What if a building was on the second floor, and you were not able to walk up the steps to get to it?
What if the only way you could enter a business or building was to go around to the back of it?
What if you faced danger every time you got out of your vehicle because of where the parking spaces were located?
What if you wanted to have a drink at a local bar, but you could not sit at the bar?
These are some of the issues Oxford resident Adam Brown faces daily.
Brown, vice chairman of the Mayor’s Commission on Disability issues, joined the group in 2008 that monitors and regulates disability-related access. The commission provides guidance and support to the city of Oxford by making sure buildings, streets, sidewalks, and houses meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
“The commission makes sure places around town are accessible to certain individuals who are handicapped, such as myself and the community as a whole,” Brown said, adding that the commission makes sure door handles and tables are a certain height.
Brown said certain restaurants and buildings in Oxford do not have an elevator, so he is not able to go inside the places in his wheelchair.
“The committee is working hard to fix these problems, but if the structure is already there, then they cannot make any changes unless they do renovations,” he said.
Brown said one of the city’s biggest issues is the distance between ramps and handicap parking spaces.
“To get into City Hall, I have to go all the way behind the building to access the ramp,” he said. “Signs were put up around the Square to explain how to get to different ramps, but it is still frustrating that I have to go all the way behind buildings in my wheelchair just to get inside.”
One of Brown’s biggest concerns is the location of handicap parking spaces. “Many handicap parking spaces on the Square are parallel, which is very dangerous, because when I get out of my car with my walker, I am in the street,” Brown said. “My life gets put at risk, and I am not able to access my wheelchair fast enough.”
Handicap spaces are also very small and often do not leave enough room for people with disabilities to remove their equipment from vehicles.
Randall Hayley, one of Brown’s close friends, said changes should be made. “It is stressful as individual who is not handicapped to get out of a parallel parking space without getting hit,” she said, “so when I watch Adam try to do the same, I know it is even harder.”
Since 2012, the Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues has been working on a strategic plan to improve the Oxford community by making sure all new housing and buildings meet ADA standards.
“At places like The Graduate Oxford, it is hard for me to get to the ramp because I have to cross the street with oncoming traffic because there is no walking path to the ramps,” he said.
At The Graduate, Brown said ramps are accessible on both sides of the building, but they are not necessarily near parking spaces for physically-challenged individuals, which makes it difficult.
“When we are trying to go to The Coop with our friends, it take us twice as long to go around traffic in the road to access the ramps,” said Hayley.
While many physically challenged individuals ride in the passenger seat, Brown drives himself. He works at HottyToddy.com, where they recently created a handicap parking space to better fit his lifestyle.
“When they were putting the handicap sign in, my co-worker Randall Hayley and I, asked if they would put it on the right side of the ramp so I do not have to go all the way around my car to get my wheelchair,” Brown said. “They told me that it was against the law to put it on the right side. The only way they would be able to do that was by putting two.”
The Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues is also working closely with new and old apartment complexes to make sure one unit has a handicap accessible unit.
“The city’s ADA compliance officer, Judy Pettit, goes through a check list to make sure all of the door handles, sinks, bars, beds, and everything else meet ADA requirements,” said Brown, adding that only new restaurants have a bar that is accessible for physically challenged individuals. He said he cannot go inside some Oxford restaurants because he cannot go up the stairs.
The Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues is also working to make sure sidewalks are ADA compliant.
“Only one meeting has been held this year to discuss the Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues,” Brown said.
He said group leaders are working hard to create awareness about these issues that are faced by some Oxford citizens.