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Residents weigh in on Rossmoor accessibility needs

Town-hall-style workshop held at Event Center

By Mike Wood

Staff writer

(Friday, May 13): An accessibility town-hall-style workshop last week gave residents the chance to voice their experiences and observations of issues that affect those with disabilities.

Whether participants described issues with compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act or noted circumstances that the law may not cover, it all was fair game at the May 2 meeting at the Event Center.

The workshop included 43 participants, who met in eight small discussion groups. Each group had a spokesperson who detailed the group’s conclusions to the audience. Subjects like pool safety, public restroom issues such as toilet seat heights and handrails, and parking access were among the most-often mentioned.

Residents described specifics like the Tice Creek Pool deck being slippery and not being able to use the drop-off area for the Fitness Center, where too many people illegally park in the red zone. Resident Sheryl Ruzek asked on behalf of her group that those problems and parking at the pools be fixed.

“Only Dollar Pool has adequate access to park for people who have mobility issues,” Ruzek said.

She noted that Hillside has only two spaces for those with Disabled Person (DP) placards, “and the grade is very steep for many who have mobility issues.”

“We need to add (DP placard) spaces nearer the pool like the ones designated for lifeguards.”

The workshop came about through discussions with the Policy Committee and was approved by the GRF Board in February. Resident Cinda Rapp was the driving force behind this effort.

“I think it was a great starter kit to have everything stop and hear us,” Rapp said after the workshop. “If we don’t tell staff and each other what our experiences and needs are, how can we ever expect it to happen? What I appreciate about this is Rossmoor has stopped and said, ‘What’s going on?’ ”

Jeff Matheson, director of resident services, served as meeting host along with Counseling Services Manager Penny Reed and her staff. GRF CEO Tim O’Keefe was in attendance, as were Board members Leanne Hamaji and Ted Bentley along with former Board member Paul Moderacki, who resigned last month.

Topics were divided into three areas. The first was GRF properties, whether these were physical barriers, parking or sidewalks or pathways of travel for any GRF-owned-and-operated public use property or facility.

Transportation and access to and from GRF facilities was the next topic, whether these involved vehicles, bus systems within or outside Rossmoor, golf carts, or paratransit services.

The third subject was GRF programs and services, and how those with auditory, mobility, visual or cognitive issues can access these.

Though the workshop offered a line of communication, the question was raised of the best approach for individual problems as they occur.

“Who do we go to when we have disability problems?” resident Renee Lee asked. “I have had problems with disability, and I have had to go to at least 12 people and with each one of them had to discuss my disability. That is not fair.”

Issues reached beyond the obvious. Jim Griesemer brought up Dial-A-Bus difficulties for those with speech disabilities.

“Is there a way to access a bus without having to call, because if you can’t speak, you can’t call a bus?” Griesemer said on behalf of his group. “If there is an app, is it easy to use? There should be some way to call a bus without literally using a phone to do so. That is definitely an accessibility issue.”

Matheson said a master list would be compiled from the issues raised at the workshop, and residents would receive an email for review, which they would submit back and include any additional comments or direction. From there, the finalized report would be addressed with the Policy and Planning committees.

“There are things that are fairly straightforward, and others where much more expense is involved that the Board would have to allocate resources,” Matheson said.

Ruzek, an epidemiologist and professor emerita of public health at Temple University, devised an estimate that 58 percent of Rossmoor residents have a hearing, ambulatory, vision or cognitive impairment, using the U.S. Census Bureau’s prevalence data for disabilities by age, along with Rossmoor’s 2021 demographics report.

That’s a sizeable portion of the population, and among that number, experience with and knowledge of accessibility varies. Rapp described differences between those who have been disabled for a long time and those who don’t experience issues until they grow older.

Speaking from her own experiences, Rapp said the first group “knows what their rights are, and they have worked through the world becoming more accessible. Those people who become disabled don’t have the same awareness of their rights and what that is in Rossmoor.”

“It’s an active retirement community; we want that, too, but we want us to be able to be active here,” Rapp said.