Guidebook to Chicagoland for people with disabilities

March 6, 2008 10:32:54 AM PST
For the first time, a comprehensive guide to Chicago is available for visitors with disabilities.

Putting together a guide highlighting specific accessibility features was not easy, especially in a city with so much to offer.

Navy Pier, the Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park, the lakefront, the Chicago History Museum. These are just a few of Chicago's attractions featured in Easy Access Chicago.

The guide was produced by the Open Doors Organization. Eric Lipp is the executive director.

"It was difficult, I am not gonna lie to you," Lipp said. "We thought it would be easy, to just call up hotels and museums and go in and do a site visit, and it wasn't that easy."

Open Doors had a group of six people go out and visit all the sites. In addition to being physically accessible, they wanted to give visitors more information.

"We went out and wanted to find out things," said Lipp, 'like, Are you doing training and do you offer both Braille and large print menus? Do you offer assistive listening devices? What kind of things do you have that maybe aren't just necessarily in the architectural box of ADA specifications?"

Tourism is not just important for Chicago; the state also benefits. That's why they were involved in putting this guide together. Jack Lavin is the director of the Illinois Department of Commence and Economic Opportunity.

"It's good for business," Lavin said. "There's 600,000 people with disabilities in the Chicagoland area and their families. It's a great market, and they have a lot of disposable income, and they tend to be loyal customers."

The guide goes beyond the city limits. Theresa Pacione, one of the people who helped put the guide together, went to the suburbs.

"We went to the Frank Lloyd Wright House, we went to a Naperville village, Naperville settlement. We also went to Lisle, Illinois, where there's Morton Arboretum. We went out to Skokie and we saw sculpture garden there."

Being part of Easy Access Chicago is beneficial for places like the Chicago History Museum where they offer a wide range of accommodations. Nancy Fitzgerald is director of visitor services.

"When we have larger commemorative programs, like our Fourth of July program, that's standard for planning, for the program, is that we have sign interpreter there," said Fitzgerald. "All of the new video presentation in our renovated galleries, we provide captioning...For visually impaired we have an audio tour...there are objects and artifacts that are available for them to touch and feel."

"This is the first comprehensive guide done anywhere in the country, and for that matter in the world, and so we want to be a model for other cities to be like Chicago," said Lipp.

The best part about the guide it's free and also available online. Find the guide online at http://www.easyaccesschicago.org. You can download the guide in pdf format by clicking here.

For more information about Open Doors Organization, go to www.opendoorsnfp.org


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