Taking on the post office in fight for accessibility

Aberdeen man wants ramps, better parking

April 20, 2003|By Jennifer Blenner | Jennifer Blenner,SUN STAFF

The simple task of going to the post office is an arduous process for handicapped residents of Aberdeen.

The local post office, on West Bel Air Avenue, does not have handicapped-accessible entrances or parking available. And that has forced some residents to look elsewhere for postal service.

Just ask Bill White, a handicapped retiree who mails out letters for his church organization three times a week. The task has become more difficult, he said.

"I shouldn't have to go up 10 steps to get into the lobby," said White, who has filed a formal complaint with federal officials.

About four years ago, he had two hips replaced and his right ankle fused, which left him using a wheelchair and a walker for a period of time. Eventually, he regained some strength and now uses only a walking stick.

He considers himself fortunate that he can get in and out of the post office, but for people in wheelchairs and walkers it is an impossible feat.

On Aug. 9, White made a complaint to the U.S. Access Board's office of compliance and enforcement in Washington. In the complaint, he stated that the post office was not accessible and he wanted the board to do something about it.

A week later he received a letter from the board, saying that it would look into the matter. He has not received further response, he said.

As his strength decreases, White has started going to other post offices, including Havre de Grace and Belcamp, which are accessible.

"Why would I want to go out of my town to use the post office?" he asked.

Bob Novak, spokesman for the Baltimore District of the U.S. Postal Service, said there was a proposal in 2001 for the installation of ramps and parking at the Aberdeen post office.

"We weren't able to work it out with the city," he said.

But Novak said the city of Aberdeen did not have any available parking and was not willing to cut the curbs because the post office is in the historic district of the city.

In less than a year, Novak said, he hopes the project will be restarted.

"We hope to install a ramp and make it completely accessible from the street for our handicapped customers," he said.

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