Roller Derby

Ignoring the law, the city lags in handicap access

It's easy to blame business, but Paradis points the finger at the city. "The city is not budgeted to keep up with the scope of the problem," he says.

Deputy City Attorney Judy Boyajian, who handled the access case before the task was passed on to Deputy City Attorney Kate Zoglin, argues that the city was given three years to meet the settlement's demands. In addition to providing training and staff development in the past year, she says, the Building Inspection Department has been busy reworking procedures on access issues.

She notes that the Independent Living Resource Center has not signed on as a plaintiff in this most recent suit, suggesting that's because the group is satisfied with the city's progress. Handicap access sources say, however, that the center is holding off any legal action to ease its current negotiations with the new administration.

While Boyajian acknowledges that the city has a long way to go in bringing itself up to code, she blames building owners and the business community for not taking more responsibility in improving access on their own.

"A lot of the times things are not correctly drawn to code and the plan checker does not catch it," she says. "But there is never a 100 percent guarantee."

When asked for her views on the problem, Zoglin hurried off the phone, saying she knew little about the issue and that she would rather not lend her name to this story. Chui also declined to talk about the suit or anything to do with disabled access codes.

Meanwhile, those in wheelchairs continue to deal with a prejudice as subtle as heavy doors on public buildings, or as glaring as a Muni driver unwilling to strap a wheelchair user in.

"I know I am a reminder of people's worst nightmare. But I'm just trying to get through my day same as they are getting through theirs," Church says as he navigates his wheelchair around Embarcadero Center, searching for a way out.

Chances are he won't be back.

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