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Advocate seeks county's help in enforcing ADA compliance

Cumberland Times-News - 2/9/2018

Feb. 09--CUMBERLAND -- John Michaels, a local advocate for individuals with disabilities, addressed Allegany County commissioners Thursday to discuss upgrades needed to bring buildings throughout the county into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"I don't mind being the person to beat down the door," Michaels told commissioners, "but this needs to be addressed."

Passed in 1990 by the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, the ADA includes specific guidelines for private and commercial businesses for handicapped accessibility.

Michaels, who was partially paralyzed after a diving accident in 1994, said multiple private and public buildings do not meet these federal guidelines, including the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce.

"I sent (the chamber) a formal letter yesterday," he said.

Even as the valedictorian of the 2014 Leadership Allegany Class, a nine-month program headed by the organization to educate future leaders on regional issues, Michaels never made it through the chamber's door.

The program entails various field trips around the region. However, the chamber did not offer handicapped accessibility transport, leaving Michaels to secure his own transportation.

"I had to drive to every single place on my own, with my own money," he said.

"We dropped our membership with the chamber of commerce," Michaels said, "because I will not support that."

Commissioner Creade Brodie Jr. plans to work with Michaels to secure state and local funds for upgrades.

"There is money out there available," Brodie said, "whether it's through the state or the feds, we will do the best we can to navigate and help promote this for you."

In addition to working as an advocate, Michaels is employed by Durable Medical Equipment and Ark of Frederick.

"The last thing I was going to do was stay on disability for $700 a month," he said.

He also heads the Facebook page "Inaccessible Businesses in Allegany County" to promote awareness about accessibility issues in the area, as well as commend businesses making upgrades.

Other agenda items included:

--Commissioners voted to approve the appointment of Amanda Paul as a member of the Allegany County Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board. Her term will expire Feb. 8, 2023.

--Commissioners approved the Vision Benefits of America renewal agreement for Allegany County employees for the period from Oct. 1, 2017, through June 30, 2019. This is elective and is 100 percent paid by the employee.

The next regular business meeting is scheduled for Feb. 22 at 5 p.m.

Follow staff writer Heather Wolford on Twitter @heatherbwolford.

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(c)2018 the Cumberland Times News (Cumberland, Md.)

Visit the Cumberland Times News (Cumberland, Md.) at times-news.com

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