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Mayor intent on improving handicapped accessibility

August 25, 2011 10:06:16 AM PDT
A new mayor, a new administration, and new traditions are taking hold in City Hall. What does this mean for Chicago's residents with disabilities?

For more than 20 years, Mayor Richard M. Daley's agenda included making Chicago the most accessible city in the world. Will Mayor Rahm Emanuel continue this commitment?

"Mayor Emanuel is very supportive of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities and disability issues," said Karen Tamley, who has been commissioner of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities for six years.

"There are plans to purchase new trains which are a lot more accessible to people with disabilities, people who are blind, deaf and hard of hearing," Tamley said. "There will be accessibility features on those trains as well.

"Since 2007, we've installed over 30,000 new compliant curb cuts around the city. We have a committee that's comprised of the disability community that helps us look at different parts of the city to determine where the greatest needs are."

Parents and teachers are concerned about the situation in Chicago's public schools. For students with disabilities, efforts are being made to make them more accessible and provide better services.

"We're really looking at concentrating a lot of effort to bring a lot of those old schools into ADA compliance," said Tamley.

"We have a benefit analysis project where we're working with young people with disabilities who receive SSI benefits, and talking to the about what it means to go out and get a job being on benefits."

The most significant program at MOPD is the home improvement program called HomeMod.

"Our open application period is October through the first of the year," said Tamley. "So folks can call 311 to get more information on the program and to get an application, but what we provide is up to $10,000 in grant money to modify your home to be accessible, and the demand out there in the city far outweighs our resources, so we're able to serve as many people as we possibly can every year."

Tamley says her office is trying to reach out to all Chicago's residents with disabilities and their families.

"I want to hear from the community about their issues, their problems their challenges, the things they think are working well, the things they think are not working well, because we can only help address those barriers when we know what the are.

"We've done a series of community forums over the last week," said Tamley. "We're going to be doing another one for the deaf community August 30th...We're going to be doing a couple forums on some key disability issues coming up this fall."

While Commissioner Tamley and her staff working to continue to making Chicago more accessible, they are inviting the community to express their concerns. For more information, go to the MOPD website or call (312) 744-7050.


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