Newton Disability Dispute

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To the disabled wheel chairs, even motorized ones, are just as important as pair of legs. That is why some citizens in the city of Newton became concerned when city police told residents that motorized wheel chairs were not allowed on city streets.

"We received complaints that from people who used motorized wheel chairs and other assistant vehicles in Newton were told it was against the law for them to use in the street," said Sharon Burt who is Independent Living Specialist.

Sharon Burt who works for L.I.F.E. an advocate for disabled people in this area people in this area took those complaints along with the state law to city officials.

Interestingly enough the city found that motorized vehicles were exempt from the state law, meaning they could be ridden anywhere from sidewalks to the streets, which brought up major safety concerns for the city.

In fact, Mayor Hamp Beaty said the city ordinance was "an issue of safety, if the state law allows it, we will stand behind the state law. We thought we were right and found out we weren't."

"I offered for our ADA specialist to go to Newton for no charge and come up with a plan for the city. If they had more curb cut ins they would not have the problem of these motorized vehicles in the street. And she could help find a cost effective way to make the city more wheel chair accessible," said Burt.

Cost effective is the operative word there. In fact, according to Mayor Hamp Beaty it’s not a matter of a willingness to meet American Disability Act regulations, it’s a money matter. That is they why the city is just now machine City Hall accessible. A new elevator, ADA approved bathroom and other improvements have been in the works for nearly five years, but they just recently received the $270,000 it cost to complete the project.

As for motorized wheelchairs, the city plans to change their ordinance in accordance with state law, which allows them anywhere that a bicycle goes.