On Thursday, October 7th, community members were invited to the Cadott Elementary lunchroom (or by virtual means) to join a discussion around accessibility in the community. Hosting the discussion was paid for by a grant from the ALA: Libraries Transform Communities fund. The grant provided the library with $3000 dollars to purchase tech equipment, mailed marketing, lend-able materials, refreshments, and incentive items. Attendees went home with a small goodie bag with a customized logo sticker and pin, a key chain, and candy.
5 people attended the conversation, including a reporter from the Courier Sentinel. As moderator, Library Director Samma Johnson encouraged the attendees to take ground rules into account, including: constructive criticism and respectful language.
The discussion consisted of a series of 11 questions, beginning with “What does an accessible community mean to you”, and ending with “what are some minor efforts that could be put into place by businesses/services to improve accessibility to community members”.
As the discussion began, Johnson reiterated that the discussion was not to speak poorly of the village’s businesses and services, but to look critically at some issues in the community. Around 30% of the community is considered “senior citizen” at over the age of 65. On average, this age group is most affected by issues of accessibility. One attendee worded their view of accessibility as: “access without danger”; highlighting the potential for slip-and-falls on steps and uneven sidewalks as examples.
Specifically on Main Street, which is often touted as the “heart of Cadott”, the group specifically addressed concerns around the number of businesses that require a raised step to enter. Entrances of the most concern include the pharmacy and the post office, but also Kiwis Ink, the hair salon, barbershop, and the hardware store as examples. Other concerns were raised about the grade of incline for buildings such as Leiser’s Furniture and the ramp in front of the (now closed) Cadott Bakery, door widths and lack of automatic door openers for the handicapped. There was also mention of the sidewalks, which are uneven in areas; however, the village is already moving to make improvements. Specifically, two sections of the Even-side of North Main have been taken care of.
Less obvious issues to consider included: signage for the blind and parking. Parking has long been an issue for most area businesses, including the library. Specifically though, there is only 1 handicap parking space on the block; between Cook & Anderson Chiropractic and Miller Pharmacy. While this is great for patrons who are utilizing those two businesses, folks have a harder time with businesses on the opposite side of the street, such as the post off and library. If they can’t park close enough to their destination, they may just avoid going.
Issues around these businesses and service locations may stem from the age of the buildings. Many of them were erected in the 1920s or even earlier.
Beyond the Main Street, questions were raised about the Village Hall, the Historical Society, and the Lion’s stone pavilion in Riverside Park. Specifically, the grade of incline and lack of door opener at the hall. The group was unsure about access to the historical society and whether there were steps involved, and how well spaced the displays are. Per the stone pavilion, while there is access inside it was the lack of adequate lighting that may cause problems for those with varied vision problems.
The discussion wasn’t all critical! We discussed positives in the community as well. The pharmacy does have a ramp in the alley of the building, though the group wasn’t sure if it was still safe to use, or use was allowed by the public. Area businesses with good access included Citizens Bank, Color Center, Half-Way Bar’s event room, the gas stations, Dollar General, Village Scoop, the school buildings, and the fire hall.
As we changed gears to reflect on what made area businesses accessible, we considered what the biggest issue were. Ultimately, many business and services suffer due to steps, stairs, and lack of space. Unfortunately, this results in a restriction of access. Primarily to seniors, but also potentially to families with children in strollers or carriers, those with low-vision, and those with balance or vertigo issues. Issues at the library are known to keep seniors from visiting once they can no longer climb the stairs, and it has been several years since a school class has visited the library. Other businesses are affected too, such as the post office. Someone who cannot get into the post office may have difficulty picking up held mail or large packages.
One of our final questions raised was around which businesses are most essential to the community. Of those with adequate access: the bank, Dollar General, the schools, and gas stations were mentioned. Those that require work to make them more accessible included: the library, the pharmacy, Village Hall and Police Department. The group was unsure about the accessibility around local auto garages, and the
Lastly, the group brainstormed some ideas for minor changes or adaptations that could make businesses and services more accessible. Some ideas included offering curbside service or home delivery, such as the library has been offering since the COVID-19 pandemic re-opening began, house call services, and sidewalk consultations. To deal with entrances, temporary ramps were discussed as well as installing doorbells for service to the sidewalk. There was also a mention of a GPS Guide to town for the blind or vision impaired.
In closing, the library board president, Cookie Kaste, answered some questions about the movement toward a new library building. A committee will be forming soon, and applications are available at the library or online for interested community members.