Image: Menlo Park Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman in a wheelchair and uniform entering through a doorway. Image originally appeared in The Almanac.
By Anthony Tusler, Sarah Quinto, and Lake Kowell
It is good news that the Fountaingrove Fire Station is going to be rebuilt according to Americans with Disability Act (ADA) standards. Some people might argue that a fire station does not need to meet ADA standards, but they would be wrong.
Building a fire station under the assumption that disabled people do not need full access is incorrect. A renovated station makes it possible for anyone to work. When Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman, of Menlo Park, returned to work using his wheelchair after an accident, he could. We need to rethink, just as Menlo Park did, what it takes to do a job.
The ADA recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and guarantees civil rights protections to disabled Americans, especially in areas of employment. At its heart, the ADA is a civil rights law. In Sonoma County, protection under the ADA means a right to gainful employment, previously believed to be a privilege only afforded to those with fully able bodies, is secured for thousands of Sonoma County residents.
There are nearly 30,000 working-aged people in Sonoma County with a long-lasting disabilities. The beauty of the ADA is not that it imposes restrictions, but that it opens up doors of possibility for earning income, and contributing to the livelihood of our community.
We are heartened that the Fountaingrove Fire Station will be updated to become ADA compliant, even with a regrettable, and avoidable, cost of $183,000 to taxpayers. As taxpayers ourselves, we are certainly dismayed that the station was not constructed properly in the first place, and is consequently costing us money. Going forward, it is our hope that contractors and developers take advantage of the numerous available resources on the ADA.
We are writing as DisQuake, an independent group of advocates with disabilities in Sonoma County who champion disability civil rights and culture. It’s our fervent hope that all of Sonoma County continues to embrace the values of the ADA. On signing the ADA President, George W. Bush said, “You have in your hands the key to the success of this act, for you can unlock a splendid resource of untapped human potential that, when freed, will enrich us all.”
Submitted to The Press Democrat on 11/18/2015 in response to an article titled: Remodel for Santa Rosa’s brand-new fire station to cost $183,000