ADA changes in Ellensburg

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Transition Plan includes about $31 million in overall repairs and accessibility changes in Ellensburg, including improvements to sidewalks and ramps

Abigail Duchow, Staff Reporter

One of the City of Ellensburg’s responsibilities is to make sure the sidewalks and buildings around town are up-to-date with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Transition Plan. The plan includes maintaining certain standards for sidewalks, ramps and other accessibility implementations. 

CWU student Sawyer Stearns knows firsthand just how impactful and important it is to stay up-to-date with the ADA Transition Plan. Stearns is a resident assistant at CWU and is majoring in family and child life. She has been in a wheelchair for two and a half years and has to be aware of accessibility in her everyday life.

“The way I get around is solely based on what is accessible to me,” Stearns said.

Paneal Holland

Part of this, she described, is based on the weather. Stearns explained that in the winter, her ability to get around relies on the sidewalks being plowed and not covered in snow. When the sidewalks are not plowed, people in wheelchairs will have a hard time getting around, and they could even get stuck, according to Stearns.

“Not only the snow, but the gravel gets stuck in my wheels, which makes it harder on my shoulders,” Stearns said.

Stearns also added this is especially a problem with her motorized wheelchair because the snow can get packed in the motor and cause it to stop working. 

Stearns described a time in Ellensburg when she got her wheelchair caught on a dip in the sidewalk, causing the wheelchair to lurch forward and her to fall out of it. The dip has since been repaired. Stearns said awareness of accessibility is important to make an impact on not only those with mobile disabilities, but everyone. She believes having accessible spaces around town will positively impact the whole community. 

Derek Mayo is the City Engineering Services Manager for the Public Works and Utilities Department for the City of Ellensburg. Part of Mayo’s job is maintaining the ADA Transition Plan. Mayo said Ellensburg has had an ADA plan for a long time, and that positive changes to the sidewalks and accessibility are made every year. Mayo said the city spends about $120,000 on sidewalk repairs annually, and about $225,000 per year overall on sidewalks. The ADA plan, he described, consists of about $31 million in overall repairs and changes to the accessibility in Ellensburg. w

According to Mayo, the process of making changes includes interns evaluating every sidewalk and ramp in town, then determining which areas need the most improvement. This is a process that has taken up whole summers. The improvements are rated by which areas need the most renovation first. They are also rated by how many people use the sidewalks in the area being evaluated. Mayo also said specific needs and requests, such as an obstacle in someone with a mobile disability’s regular route, take priority over the gradual repair and improvement of the whole city. 

The city is working on the plans right now, and will get to work in the summer. Mayo said the city tries to “meet the needs of the public the best [it] can.”

 Citizens of Ellensburg can expect the ADA plan to continue being implemented every year to create the most accessible spaces possible.