In September, The New Falcon Herald looked at the extra challenges that people with disabilities face when living in rural areas — the biggest issues are isolation and an overall lack of resources.|
Non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act can also be a major issue. This month, the NFH focused on how those same challenges affect the elderly in rural areas, especially those who also have physical limitations.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law by George H. W. Bush in 1990 and guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate in daily, mainstream American life, according to the ADA website.
According to the NFH article, rural areas are often behind in ensuring businesses are in compliance with ADA regulations, particularly regarding wheelchair accessibility. However, by requiring certain adjustments to comply with those regulations, businesses could be inadvertently creating new issues.
Dallis Esarey, a retiree living in Yoder for the past 21 years, said he spends about three to four months out of the year confined to a wheelchair because of previous injuries to his legs. But he and his wife refuse to just sit at home, so Esarey said they often head into Falcon, which is where they first noticed a new challenge: curb ramps with bumps known as detectable warnings.
According to the Department of Transportation’s ADA standards (found on the United States Access Board’s website), detectable warnings must consist of a surface of truncated domes with specific base and top diameters, height, spacing and contrast.
“These detailed criteria provide a distinctive texture intended to have a uniform meaning in alerting persons to the approach to vehicular areas,” the website states.
Esarey said he understands that the ramps with detectable warnings are meant to make things better, but he feels they are making things worse.
“I have gone down in a wheelchair and they (detectable warning bumps) shoved me over to one side, and I almost fell off the sidewalk,” he said. “It changes the direction you are going, hitting those knobs.”
The curb ramp in front of Walgreens in Falcon has detectable warnings; but, according to the Access Board’s website, “Specifically, the curb ramp requirements apply only to public transportation facilities covered by DOT’s ADA standards. Curb ramps at other facilities are not required to have detectable warnings.”
Esarey said he appreciates the effort to help elderly people with disabilities and wheelchair bound people; however, he thinks there is probably a better solution than using raised bumps on the sidewalk ramps.
Esarey and his wife are able to drive to Falcon, but many in the aging population are homebound. Gretchen Bricker said immobility issues are a huge challenge for many elderly residents living in rural areas. Bricker is the supervisor of the direct services team with the Area Agency on Aging Department of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments and said having a transportation method, like the envida bus that runs from eastern El Paso County to Colorado Springs, has made a big difference for many elderly folks.
“If they do not drive, they can get pretty isolated, which then contributes to social isolation,” she said. “Those two things can affect someone’s ability to live individually and be successful.”
The overall lack of resources to help the aging population is the biggest concern, Bricker said. People do not know where to go for help or what type of help is available. She said it often takes a movement by the community to bring awareness to those in a position to provide some of those services. And there are funds available to address the needs, Bricker said.
The AAA department receives federal funding, and service providers can apply for the funding, which is then doled out in grant form to qualified providers, she said. The agency has an annual application period where service providers can apply for the funding, Bricker said.
“We have an annual evaluation by the state to review those service providers and make sure we are providing the resources for those who are most needy,” she said. “We will focus on meeting the needs of those people as long as we have providers in those areas that we can grant the funds to.”
Bricker said it is not difficult to see where a need exists with elderly residents in rural locations. The need might include helping with chores around their house or property — mowing the lawn, shoveling snow off the driveway; or ensuring there is a consistent source of healthy meals, she said.
“Good nutrition can be a problem,” Bricker said. “The AAA contracts with providers that have applied for funding to bring home-delivered meals to rural areas.”
The bottom line is that there are services available to the aging population; knowing where to find those services is a step in the right direction, Bricker said. By calling the AAA, those in need of services can get information through the help of trained volunteers who have knowledge and access to finding resources in the county, she said.
“We will give them whatever resources we can possibly give them,” Bricker said. “We cannot follow up with them, but we can give them the information about who to call to find out about services and availability.”
(Area Agency on Aging: 719-471-2096)
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Following a newly enacted amendment to the Colorado Revised Statutes, the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners approved a request to modify the county’s review and approval process for final plats in August. The amendment allows any board of county commissioners throughout the state to delegate approval of final plats to their administrative staff.|
In El Paso County, the person who can authorize approvals for final plats is Craig Dossey, executive director of the EPC Planning and Community Development department.
Dossey said the change has been a long time coming.
“We have been tracking final plats for the last five years,” he said. “Ninety-four percent of those final plat requests went to the board of county commissioners as consent items. The commissioners were not really having full hearings on final plats.”
Dossey said the modification will likely shave off about12 to 18 months of the development review and approval process, which was often spent waiting for a chance to have the application heard by the BOCC.
Mark Waller, BOCC representative for District 2, said, “There is a huge amount of time and expense that goes into preparing these presentations to the board and a lot of it is just information we have to listen to.”
The modification was not created to fast-track development, nor does it undermine the public participation process, Dossey said. “There are still six hearings, including the sketch plan, zoning and preliminary planning phases, before we are even in a position to consider a final plat; and all of those are open to the public,” he said. “Also, there is still the opportunity for appeal if someone feels they are aggrieved by a decision I make.”
At the zoning stage, the BOCC has a lot of discretion but once an application has reached the final plat stage, if the developer has met the black and white criteria of the design standards, the BOCC has little discretion, Dossey said. “If it meets the requirements as determined by staff, there is nothing to deny,” he said.
All other requirements of the development processes have been met by the time it reaches the final plat stage, Dossey said. The county engineers and planners have already approved the construction drawings, and water sufficiency has been proven, he said.
“Water availability and water sufficiency should be discussed earlier in the process and this advocates for that,” Dossey said. “It allows us to have a very intentional conversation about water in general; we can talk about it on a bigger scale.”
However, should a developer request that a finding of water sufficiency be delayed until the final platting phase of the process, that application must go before the BOCC and cannot be approved administratively, he said.
“If the application is controversial in any way or someone requests a hearing, the application still comes before the BOCC,” Waller said.
Dossey said the county has spent plenty of staff time writing reports and attending hearings, which requires taking senior engineers and planners away from their work to sit through hours of hearings, when the application only requires the consent of the BOCC.
“This allows us to save time and energy and now we have more time to do what we do best, which is development review,” he said.
The new process could improve housing prices and house affordability because the developers will be saving money, and hopefully they will pass those savings on to the homebuyer, Dossey said.
“This is a rare win-win situation that was met with bipartisan support at the state level,” he said. “Support for this statute was overwhelming, which says we are in the right place.”