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Reprinted from PN July 2001
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Long ago when the era of flight was in its infancy and flying airplanes was a wild venture, an aviator of dubious distinction became a footnote in history. Legend has it that pilot Douglas Corrigan sought permission from the Civil Aviation Authority to fly across the Atlantic from New York to Ireland. He was turned down on the grounds that his plane was in very poor condition.

Corrigan seemed to accept the ruling, but when he took off from New York on July 17, 1938, he banked sharply to the east and headed out over the ocean. Twenty-eight hours and thirteen minutes later, he landed in Ireland, innocently explaining that his 180 wrong turn must have been due to a faulty compass.

No one believed his explanation, especially aviation authorities in both countries. In fact, they suspended his license and ordered his aircraft dismantled. Upon his return to America, however, he was greeted as a hero; a ticker-tape parade down Broadway honored a man who had flown in the face of authority.

Well, "Wrong-way" lives!! Yep, way down south in Mississippi, the Montgomery County supervisors and their architect definitely have an affinity with ol' Corrigan. ADA accessibility hound Tracy Browning, who is from Winona, Miss., and is a Mid-South PVA liaison officer, alerted the supervisors concerning accessibility issues with their new coliseum. But did they listen? Following are excerpts from Browning's report in the chapter's newsletter:

"Well, my county supervisors successfully messed things up again. By now, wheelchair users in my town should be using an elevator recently installed at our new coliseum. Guess what? It's not being used.

"One year ago a coliseum was built ignoring the ADA guidelines altogether. [Mid-South PVA Advocacy/Architectural Barriers Coordinator] Cecilia [Varino] and I met with the county board in February 2000; the board admitted fault and agreed to work with us to find a solution. Cecilia sent the architect's plans to the [PVA] National Office for ADA-compliance suggestions; we then attended another board meeting with a solution from National. The board promised a speedy process, and the waiting game began.

"I followed up on this matter on numerous occasions over the next six months. I then met with the board again after six months had elapsed with no renovation taking place. I gave them an ultimatum: Either renovation would begin within 60 days or I would file a lawsuit.

"Well, they chose to compromise again. Work did begin as promised, but at a snail's pace. I was patient, though. At least the ball was rolling again.

"A couple of weeks ago, I received a call informing me the elevator was installed. I hurried over to the coliseum to see the result of all my hard work. I rolled inand couldn't believe my eyes. The architect drew the plans wrong, and the elevator opens in the wrong direction! (By the way, this is the same architect who ignored the ADA requirements the first time around.) Now we have a $15,000 metal box (the elevator) nobody can use.

"The supervisors are at a standstill again, pointing their fingers at everyone besides themselves. We're back where we started a year ago. I will turn up the heat again; the media loves this kind of story, exposing the waste of tax dollars. Stupidity...doesn't give [the county board] the right to waste taxpayers' money.

"For you who don't know, all buildings built since January 1993 must be accessible, no excuses accepted.

"The moral of this article is, when you encounter an accessibility problem you want corrected, grab it by the horns and hang on. I promise you, if you let go the issue at hand will be pushed to the side, and the problem will go uncorrected. Every small victory we make counts toward an accessible tomorrow."

Let's hope the architect won't be treated like "Wrong-way" was and be "greeted as a hero,"...honored for defying the authorities. If this happens, Tracy will be in his face like a junkyard dog!



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