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Disability Commission member Davey McNelly shows the ramp and door switch at Bagel Street Deli.

6 Athens businesses granted money to make facilities more accessible

The City of Athens has partnered with the Athens City Commission on Disabilities to upgrade businesses to be more accessible.

The Matching Fund Program is a grant for six businesses in which the city allocates funds to do a one-to-one match. The six businesses are Bagel Street Deli, the Athens Photographic Project, Brenen’s Coffee Cafe, Little Fish Brewing Company, Passion Works Studio and Uptown Realty Group.

The one-to-one match means the city will give the business a certain amount of money for facility upgrades, and the business will have to match that same amount.

Member of the Athens City Disabilities Commission Annah Korpi said the one to one match incentivized businesses to upgrade their facilities to become more accessible because the businesses would only need to allocate half the funding needed for the renovations and the city would contribute the other half of the funds.

Korpi had the idea of starting the Matching Fund Program a few years before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Once I joined the commission, I basically reached out to the city myself,” Korpi said. “Within 48 hours, they were like, ‘We love this idea, and we'll find money for it,' super quick.”

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson approved and allocated $30,000 from discretionary funds after Korpi and Disability Commission member Davey McNelly worked with Service-Safety Director Andy Stone to form the program, according to a press release the city posted to X, formerly known as Twitter.

According to the release, business owners within city limits were encouraged to submit an application that went live last spring that explained their intent for accessibility upgrades.

“The commission received six applications,” according to the release. “All but one applicant received the full amount they requested.”

One applicant, Bagel Street Deli, located at 25 S. Court St., has already added an automatic door that opens with a push of a button, Co-owner Megan McElligott Meyer said. The grant paid for $1,500 of the $3,000 cost for the door insulation, according to the release.

“People who use a wheelchair or braces for walking have a hard time opening a door that they must get close to and then back up while pulling or pushing the door,” McElligott Meyer wrote in an email. “Anyone with mobility issues or (anyone who) may have a limited use of their arms will be able to press the button and then simply wait for the door to open for them.”

Bagel Street Deli has other accessible features as well, like wheelchair-height counters, accessible dining room seating and accessible bathrooms.

“In the future, we could look into having menus that are either in braille or can be listened to so people with vision issues can access our menu easier,” McElligott Meyer wrote.

According to the release, the city hopes to open a new grant cycle in the spring.

“My hope is that if we get a couple of years under our belt doing this, then we might be able to apply for grants if we have a track record of doing this successfully, and we can document it.” Korpi said. “That then would allow us to put down even more money.”

As a parent of a child who uses a wheelchair, Korpi felt that these accommodations are necessary for inclusivity.

“We're gonna be here for the rest of our lives and I just want to be able to enter these establishments and dine and shop and participate with the rest of the community,” Korpi said.

Korpi said she hopes Athens has a paradigm shift in how the community thinks about who accessibility benefits and how much larger that population is than people think.


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