Norfolk, Va. – The Norfolk Chapter of Virginia Organizing and disability rights advocates celebrate a win today, as changes to accessibility are happening in the city of Norfolk.Through a series of talks with City Council, Virginia Organizing chapter members and disability rights organizations have advocated for changes to the Norfolk landscape which will benefit people with disabilities.
Last summer, Virginia Organizing held listening sessions where they heard from people with disabilities about the difficulties they experience as they navigate the city of Norfolk. Chapter members and people directly affected by these issues took this list of concerns to City Council, through private meetings with members of City Council, an op-ed in the Pilot, and public speaking at a city council meeting. Over the course of several months, the City has committed to changing the following issues people encounter:
- Sidewalks and curb cuts around ODU and Downtown are very chaotic; there needs to be continuity and well-paved sidewalks. This can be dangerous and cumbersome.
- Bus stop in front of Endependence Center was removed, making it difficult for their clients. Re-implement bus stop in front of Endependence Center, at Virginia Beach Boulevard and Land Street.
- ADA coordinator is difficult to locate on Norfolk.gov website. Make this more visible, including contact information.
- Traffic and speeding on Hampton Blvd and Waterside Drive are dangerous for people going downtown and living at a Hope House location on Redgate Avenue. Find a way to slow traffic down on these thoroughfares. (This is an issue in other areas as well).
- Some privately owned businesses have accessibility issues. Change zoning laws so that all new businesses coming to Norfolk are accessible to people with mobility difficulties. Grandfathered-in businesses need to change protocol so that they are ADA compliant. Renovations to these businesses need to be accessible.
- Vans that provide services are being ticketed for parking on street sweeping days. Make a permit for these vehicles to be exempt from parking restrictions, or have designated loading areas.
- Similarly, there is a lack of drop off zones downtown. Vans have to park blocks away to drop off people in wheelchairs. Make more loading zones with loading docks for wheelchairs.
- We need a bus stop at the Social Security office on Military Highway.
Virginia Organizing would like to thank Councilwoman McClellan, Councilwoman Johnson, Councilwoman Doyle, Councilwoman Royster, and Chief of Staff Pete Buryk for holding meetings and making a commitment to these changes. Already, over $100 million has been allocated to fixing sidewalks, a bus stop is being put in front of Endependence Center, and the website has been fixed so an ADA coordinator is easier to locate. The rest of the list of concerns will be addressed in the coming months.
To interview a spokesperson about this issue, contact Meghan McNamara at 847-922-1213 or Meghan@virginia-organizing.org.