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SAIL event this week provided much needed info

Absolutely Accessible Upper Peninsula was a much needed event for our local area. After all, one in five people live with a disability, according to the Superior Alliance for Independent Living.

SAIL was the host organization in this week’s Absolutely Accessible gathering which was planned to raise awareness and increase accessibility in the community for those with disabilities.

The event brought together architects, builders, contractors and students to discuss ways to make the community more accessible as well as to improve the lives of those with disabilities.

SAIL Executive Director Sarah Peurakoski said there is a range of accessibility in Marquette, according to a story by Journal Staff Writer Trinity Carey.

Peurakoski said some businesses are building with this in mind and others are updating to be more accessible. However, for many older businesses, accessibility is not a viable option financially.

Peurakoski added lack of awareness is one of the biggest problems facing the disabled community.

“I think for the most part they’re not as familiar with how many people have disabilities or are struggling to get into their business or utilizing their programs or things like that. It’s important we ask people with disabilities what are the things needed versus making the assumption,” Peurakoski said. “The ADA is out there as a law but even though people know about what it is they don’t necessarily always follow it or think about excess reasons for making sure it’s accessible…”

Communication between people with disabilities and the business community could help businesses go past those first few simple steps such as having a handicap bathroom, she said.

“Sometimes they miss the entire picture and they just kind of focus on one thing, one at a time, so if you really talk to people with disabilities and get involved with our community, I think that you’ll have a much better education,” Peurakoski said.

We hope local business owners reaches out to SAIL to learn about its Access4All program, which provides education, consultation, and other on-site services to businesses, organizations and units throughout 15 counties.

Lucy Wilcox, certified ADA and accessibility services coordinator consults with such agencies on their compliance with the American Disabilities Act, Architectural Barriers Act and state and local codes and regulations. This is often done with the help of SAIL’s ambassador team made up of individuals with various disabilities such as being handicap or sight and hearing impaired. The team visits buildings to see what is helpful or what hinders disabled individuals experience at a business.

Peurakoski encouraged anyone to give SAIL a call at 906-228-5744 or email Wilcox at lucyw@upsail.org to discuss a building’s accessibility.

“We really don’t want it to be a fearful thing. We’re not trying to come in to catch anybody,” Peurakoski said. “We want them to be educated and talk about the barriers businesses have, money barriers, I don’t know how to do this, where to start, and just contact us and have that initial conversation.”

Indeed. Bringing the issue of accessibility for all into the public eye is vitally important. We congratulate SAIL on the many ways they do just that in the central U.P.