The Athens City Commission on Disabilities is hosting its Annual Walk and Roll virtually Thursday at noon. The event will address the accessibility concerns in Uptown Athens.
Attendees will hear information on requirements based on the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, and section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act.
“I remember just driving through Uptown when I was like, 16-17, looking at all the buildings, and realizing I could not get into any of them,” Davey McNelly, the chairperson for the Athens City Commission on Disabilities, said. “Three-fourths of the buildings I could not get into Uptown. I just thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, to have a social life, this is just not going to work for me.’ The idea behind doing this event and working so closely with the city and joining the disability commission for me is to not have access, as a barrier for people to move or to live in Athens.”
McNelly and Rob Delach, a local advocate for biking, walking and accessibility and member of the Athens City Commission on Disabilities, will be guiding participants through Uptown Athens to show and report accessibility issues they notice.
Additionally, Jessica Adine, interim director of engineering and public works for the city of Athens, will join to describe steps the city is taking to become more accessible.
Members of the Athens City Commission on Disabilities believe it’s important for students to see the social and architectural barriers in Athens and how they can be addressed.
“It really needs to be a widespread, understood issue for something to change,” McNelly said. “It's not enough for just one business to put in a ramp or for one street to become more accessible to make Athens accessible– to make the world accessible it takes everyone being on the same page, understanding the issues and acting to make things more accessible.”
The event, also branded as a “Lunch and Learn,” will take place on Zoom and will be livestreamed. The livestream will be hosted on the City of Athens Facebook page, as well as on the City Government Channel.
“We live in such a healing place and so many buildings are so old that have stairs in front of them and you can't really make them accessible without doing a lot of reconstruction,” Dianne Bouvier, secretary of Athens City Commission and mayor’s designee, said. “I'm going to talk about some things that places can do that are Uptown or other places that can make something more accessible than it is now. If there are ways that they can help somebody get into the building, or help them — it’s a service so that's what I'm going to talk about.”
Participants can download the “Athens City Source” app in correlation with the event. The app is a way for the people of Athens to report accessibility issues they see while out and about. How to use the app and more will be reviewed during the event.
“It's a good step in the right direction to enabling the residents to request things of the city, as far as issues that need addressing,” Delach said. “Many things I see are potholes reported, graffiti, litter, illegal parking, code violations at rental properties and things like that. But one of those categories is to be able to report accessibility issues.”
Delach said he encourages people to use the app to help improve the overall quality and equity of the city of Athens.
“It's a great way anybody including students can report issues to the city,” Delach said.