Complaint leads to courthouse door fixes

Published: April 30, 2007  |  Source: heraldonline.com
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CHESTER — Lee Carter wanted to enter the Chester County Courthouse without having to make an appointment.

Now, he can.

Because of Carter’s concerns, the county modified both sets of courthouse doors so that people confined to wheelchairs can enter by pulling a chain, said Cindy Goettsch, the county’s human resources director and its Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator.

Before Carter spoke out, one of the two front doors to the courthouse was locked, and a wheelchair was too wide to fit through the single doorway. He encountered the same problem at the back door.

“We immediately got that corrected,” Goettsch said. “That’s the way it should have been.”

The wheelchair-bound Blackstock man protested a recently adopted county resolution that required people with disabilities to set up an appointment 10 days before a court visit to get access to the courthouse.

Recently, he couldn’t enter on his own because of the locked second door.

Along with the door changes, Goettsch said the county is establishing handicapped parking spaces behind the courthouse, an addition that could be finished this week.

Carter, the executive director of the S.C. Spinal Cord Injury Association, is pleased with the changes.

When he first told the county about the access problem, County Supervisor Carlisle Roddey talked to county attorney Joanie Winters, who compiled a set of rules to help the county comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The County Council unanimously adopted those guidelines.

But as part of those procedures, anyone who needs any accommodation to participate in a court proceeding must contact the county’s Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator at least 10 days beforehand to be sure those needs are met.

Carter said that was a quick fix and more should be done.

So the county installed the door chain. And on Friday, Carter met with county staff to test the modified doors, which are accompanied by signs indicating how they can be opened.

“That makes it a lot easier,” Carter said.

Goettsch said the county tries to meet the needs of the disabled, but special accommodations will need the 10 days notice. She said a deaf person who needs a sign language interpreter for a court proceeding fits that criteria.

Still, she said people who have questions about access should call her. Her number is (803) 385-5003.

By Charles D. Perry · The Herald