Letter to the Editor: Construction to begin in September on Hopi Reservation to make public building more accesible to disabled people

To the editor:

There is currently an effort to address the needs and issues facing Hopis with disabilities. The Hopi Disability Advocacy Group (HDAG), consisting of persons with a disability, family members, service providers and interested persons, is working on initiatives to increase accessibility to disability related services to improve the quality of life of those with disabilities.

In an effort to address the barriers of access to polling sites, the group conducted surveys in January of five polling sites where Hopi voters exercise their voting rights. At these five polling sites the following common barriers were identified that could hinder persons who use a wheelchair, a walker, or for a blind-low vision person, to be able to vote. There were no lined designated parking spaces and related posted signs, no designated parking space for a van with a wheelchair lift, parking lots were graveled or had dirt surfaces making it difficult to maneuver wheelchairs or walkers, there were unlevel surfaces on the pathway to the polling site entrance, sidewalks were higher than the parking area, ramps were narrow and steep, entrance doors were too heavy and were not equipped with required door levers, and restroom doors were too narrow for wheelchairs to enter. A comprehensive report has been written that will be provided to the Hopi Election Office to begin discussion toward a needed resolution.

Collaboration has been initiated with the Hopi Tribal Housing Authority (HTHA) to have housing services more accessible for Hopis with disabilities. This effort includes making the application process more simpler, revising the HTHA policies to ensure the housing rights of people with disabilities are provided for and to have HTHA staff become educated on working with applicants and tenants with disabilities. To address this disability initiative, it has been agreed to have quarterly meetings.

Construction work will begin in September to make buildings accessible with sidewalks, ramps, improved door entrances, better restroom accessibility and a new elevator in the tribal administration building. This work is likely to be completed by December.

The Hopi Office of Special Needs, the Native Americans Disability Law Center and the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council are all helping with the work.

Hoskie Benally, Jr., Community\Government Liaison, Native American Disability Law Center

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