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Disabled accessibility in St. Louis set to get a $2 million boost

The St. Louis City Hall's handrail
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis City Hall on Friday. The city’s Office on the Disabled is recommending funding projects to better comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including installing new or modifying existing handrails to meet applicable building codes and ADA standards.

St. Louis is poised to spend $2 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to make more of its public buildings and spaces accessible to people with disabilities.

The money was part of a COVID-19 relief bill Mayor Tishaura Jones signed earlier this month and represents one of the largest one-time investments the city has made in boosting compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

“I think it's wonderful that our city has identified this as a need and prioritized this money to help make St. Louis as accessible as possible with the resources that we have,’ said Kim Lackey, senior director of programs at Paraquad, an advocacy organization for individuals with disabilities.

Accessibility work, such as adding new curb cuts on sidewalks, is usually done when a street is being repaired or a new building is going up, said David Newburger, the city’s commissioner on the disabled. But the projects being planned with ARPA funds are different.

“What we're picking up with this kind of work is projects that are upgrading existing situations that otherwise would not be looked at,” he said.

Projects slated for completion include making two men’s restrooms at City Hall accessible and improving access to many of the city’s parks and recreation centers.

Newburger called the $2 million a terrific start to whittling down the backlog of projects but said realistically, most cities never reach full compliance with the ADA.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.