Correction: This article has been updated to say that over $500,000 was allocated to the Office of Disability Affairs in 2021.
Detroit officials are outlining plans to better serve people with disabilities.
In 2021, over $500,000 was allocated to the Office of Disability Affairs for staffing the newly created office, sign language and captioning services for public meetings, and infrastructure upgrades.
“It’s confronting the ableism to make sure that we understand our privilege as a person without disabilities and how can we be supportive of people with disabilities,” Office of Disability Affairs Director Christopher Samp says.
In a presentation before Detroit City Council on Tuesday, officials with the Office of Disability Affairs stated their goals to broaden employment opportunities, housing and the city’s emergency preparedness plan to better include the disability community. ODA has 13 liaisons to educate other city departments about the Americans with Disabilities Act and accessibility measures.
According to the 2019 American Community Survey, Detroit has more than 100,000 residents with disabilities, nearly 18% of the city’s population. ODA staff is meeting with community stakeholders to discuss ways to improve accessibility in all aspects of city life.
This year, Samp says his office is working to make public documents available for screen reader software and having meetings captioned and translated into American Sign Language. Infrastructure upgrades are also in discussion.
“To improve sidewalk conditions and create accessible parking spaces and improve public transportation,” says Samp.
Samp says bathrooms on most floors at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center are not compliant with federal guidelines on accessibility. Some activists have called to speed up those improvements.
“We ask for Braille to be available for the elevators so people who are visually impaired can also make sure they can move around a little more independently,” former Detroit Charter Revision Commissioner Nicole Small says.
Accessibility needs to be emphasized this month as Detroit City Council considers a new budget for the fiscal year, Small says. She’s called for the board to take their discussions to the larger capacity Erma L. Henderson Auditorium so that more people can attend. City Council currently meets in a smaller room near the auditorium, after holding their meetings online for nearly two years. Seats are bordered with plexiglass as a measure to protect against COVID-19.