Commission: Events should be more accessible

The Columbia Disabilities Commission is a group of around 10 people who meet once a month to talk about ways to make Columbia more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act by talking about what they have seen and experienced that could have been done better.

While the article I wrote focused more on an idea they came up with for the Maplewood Barn Community Theater, they also talked about a few other issues.

Read my coverage from today’s meeting at

There seemed to be agreement that this year’s Roots ‘N’ Blues ‘N’ BBQ festival was much better about taking people with disabilities into consideration. But, while they were appreciative, they agreed that there were still many obstacles.

Aimee Wehmeier, executive director of Services for Independent Living, said the festival area looked ADA accessible at first but when the area was filled, it was more difficult to get around. For example, the places where they could get onto the sidewalks were blocked by chairs making it impossible for them to get up on the walkway.

Tony St. Romaine, assistant city manager, said he believes that there needs to be more communication between the Disabilities Commission and coordinators for special events to make them accessible to everyone. For example, choosing the lower deck of a restaurant or bar to hold the event instead of the upper deck.

Dovie Weston, vice chairwoman of the commission, shared an interesting anecdote when the subject switched to the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts. When she went to the theater with her mother, who uses a walker, she said a gentleman told her proudly that they were ADA accessible because there were four seats in the balcony that could be flipped up by using a screwdriver in order for people in wheelchairs to sit there. Weston said she asked the gentleman how long that whole process would take. She said he replied that it would depend on the time of day and how busy it was at that time.

Weston said she was astonished by this and could not believe that someone in a wheelchair would have to wait while someone had to be found to jimmy the seats with a screw driver – this would draw a lot of attention and be potentially embarrassing.

One of the commission members said, “It’s BYOS – bring your own screwdriver.”

The commission will hold another meeting next month. The time, date, place and agenda will be available on


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