Most Kansas businesses don't comply with handicapped access laws, according to a Topeka group.
When Bob Mikesic shops at the 23rd Street Dillons supermarket in Lawrence he parks his silver Nissan station wagon in a clearly marked handicapped parking space, pulls himself into his wheelchair and then he conveniently rolls into the nearby store.
"The access aisle is striped, the upright signs are at the correct height and there's a crosswalk that's striped that gives pedestrians priority," said Mikesic, advocacy coordinator for Independence Inc., a Lawrence resource and advocacy center for people with disabilities.
State and federal laws require that businesses, including their customer parking areas, be as accessible to the handicapped as the Dillons store.
But according to Bob Burke, founder of a Topeka group that monitors compliance with public-access laws, remarkably few businesses in Lawrence or anywhere else in Kansas come close to meeting the requirements of the 1992 Americans With Disabilities Act or state laws that similarly mandate that all businesses be fully accessible to the public, including people with disabilities.
Burke, founder of Access USA Inc., estimates that just 5 percent of the businesses in Kansas fully comply with the laws, which include requirements that store parking areas have:
- At least one 16-foot-wide handicapped parking area close to a business's entrance.
- Elevated handicapped parking signs at each parking stall.
- Gently angled curb cuts or ramps.
- Marked crosswalks, if necessary, for someone to use when traveling from a handicapped parking space to a business entrance.
A tour with Burke along West Sixth and Iowa streets this week revealed some customer parking lots with no handicapped parking spaces whatsoever. Some lots had vague, faded lines, improper handicapped space markings and no marked crosswalks.
One brand new lot had improper markings and a steeply-angled wheelchair access ramp.
"They're discriminating by not making it accessible," Burke said. "I think they don't like the government telling them what to do. Number two, they don't know what to do.
"In most cases it costs very little for a business to get in compliance. Most of the time you're just talking about slapping down some paint and buying an upright sign. This is required by state and federal laws and businesses can be sued civilly by individuals who aren't even disabled."
Access USA will present a free seminar Tuesday at Lawrence Memorial Hospital about the legal requirements for public access to businesses, government offices and job opportunities.
The seminar is for architects, contractors, building owners and employers, and for those who wish to file complaints.
"The bottom line is to get rid of the discrimination," Burke said. "What we're after is to make it so you can go do your thing with everybody else."
Making a customer parking lot accessible to people with disabilities -- and compliant with laws that require such access-- is a minimal step that any business should be able to take, Mikesic said.
"It's a matter of planning and setting priorities," he said. "I think there are a lot of people with good intentions who intend to get around to it but just haven't yet. It's a matter of getting information to them."
Tuesday's seminar, which is free and open to the public, starts at 7 p.m. in LMH's Jayhawk Room.