Community activists scored a victory for disabled people who will now have access to a local library.
The Westchester Square Library achieved partial access for people in wheelchairs and walkers with the recent installation of a chair lift and a ramp outside the building.
Disabled patrons can now reach the first floor of the library, which previously had been difficult to maneuver because of two sets of steps at the entrance to the library: one in the interior of the building, another outside the front door.
Activist Louis Rocco said he advocated for the changes after several disabled residents who wanted to use the library reached out to him and the Westchester Square Civic Association, he said.
He contacted the NYC Commission on Human Rights, which in turn reached out to the NYC Public Library regarding increasing accessibility, said Rocco.
“It is the law,” said Rocco, referring to the American With Disabilities Act that requires public places to make accommodations for the disabled and alter buildings if necessary.
The civic association president called the chairlift, which was being installed on Friday, March 17, a shared resource.
The wooden ramp for wheelchairs, was installed in January, said Rocco.
Rocco thanked the library and the commission, calling the changes long overdue.
“Everybody can use the lift,” he said. “It is not a personal elevator for someone. The law says you have to have equal access: not more, not less.”
Sandra Falconi, a local resident who uses a wheelchair and a walker said she had not come to the branch for the longest time because it was hard for her to get inside.
Falconi said that the library has programming that she would like to be a part of, including arts and crafts classes and computer training.
“When they did not have the access, I could (not take advantage) of those classes,” she said, adding she initially felt as though no one was listening but now feels otherwise.
Disabled people no longer feel left out of a facility that should be for everyone, said Rocco.
Kathleen Carrasco, branch manager, confirmed that the building enhancements would make the branch partially ADA accessible.
“We do our best to serve every member of the community, and these improvements help us do just that,” said Carrasco. “The ramp makes the branch much more accessible to a wider range of patrons.”
While Rocco noted that the facility on Glebe Avenue lacks an elevator for handicapped access past the first floor, the new Westcehster Square branch to be situated at Lane and Westchester avenues is currently being designed and will include full acceessibility.
“We look forward to the new Westchester Square branch and anticipate that designs will be completed by this summer, and construction will begin in spring 2018,” said Carrasco.