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Dec 25, 1999

Accessibility, Maybe One Day

by Al Cimaglia, from an address to the Board


Good evening Dr. Renken, members of the Board, administrators and fellow residents of Freeport.

Approximately 2 years ago I appeared before you to shed light on an issue that is very close to my heart. The issue, equal access for the physically challenged and in this case, access to public buildings. Tonight, I am once again before you in regards to the Board of Educationís administration building, as well as other buildings under its control.

It is my understanding that under your proposed 40 million dollar bond issue, you have not decided to make the Freeport School district buildings 100% handicapped accessible. I am very pleased to learn that progress has been made regarding accessibility to the first floor of the administration building. Unfortunately, it is my further understanding that the total situation has not yet been remedied. Although you may have complied with the letter of the law, it is the intent of the law that matters the most. It is one thing to be able come in out of the rain, but itís another to be able to get to your destination. The second floor of the administration building, that which houses the offices of the superintendent and the two assistant superintendents, might very well be someoneís destination.

Letís suppose a physically challenged person has business on the second floor of the districtís administration building. How would he or she be accommodated? Perhaps you would use a first floor meeting room, but only if it wasnít occupied at the time. Perhaps you would use the office of an employee, who might become annoyed and disgruntled at the inconvenience. Or perhaps you would conduct business in the hallway. Believe me when I tell you that I have experienced all of these situations throughout my lifetime. It is no picnic. The hallway treatment is the worst and most degrading. I compare it to being force to ride in the back of the bus. Should a job opening become available in the offices of one of the assistant superintendents, you may as well post a notice that reads, Physically challenged need not apply!

In 1865, President Lincoln put forth the emancipation proclamation and for the next one hundred years the people it was supposed to help remained 2nd class citizens. Please, donít let the Americans with disabilities act linger on in the same manner. Ladies and gentlemen, I think itís a shame when the Board of Education itself needs to be educated about this. Until someone tries to recreate the master race again, the physically challenged community is here to stay. Look around the room. At any time someone here could become disabled. Wouldnít it be nice to have things in place to assist that person in this district?

In a few short days we will be moving into the 21st century. The dark ages are well behind us. Letís leave them there! Always bear in mind that the expense of doing the right thing tomorrow will be far greater that the cost of doing it today.

I will close with a quote from my previous address. "Somewhere it should be written: Every new building that rises, every existing edifice, is a monument to mankind, in as much as it reflects the attitude, beliefs and standards of its time."

Thank you and good night.

ed. -- Alfred Cimaglia and his wife Judy, due to bad luck, are both wheel chair bound. Neither one of them can visit or work on the second floor of the school district administration building. They have three lovely children and two granddaughters, one brand new. After the December 15th school board meeting, I discussed the need to make all the school districtís buildings 100% handicapped accessible with Board VP Renken. While Renken agreed that it was important, he would still not commit to making them 100% handicapped accessible now. -- LILKER



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