Wheelchair accessibility difficult to find in historic Durango

Updated: 08/19/2014 5:38 PM | Created: 08/19/2014 5:09 PM
By: Devin Neeley, KOB Eyewitness News 4

DURANGO, Colorado - Historic downtown Durango sees plenty of visitors each year. Some come for outdoor activities, others to see the sights.

But some of those sights, like the historic buildings, are posing problems for locals and visitors in wheelchairs.

"Anyone in a chair would have difficulty getting around Durango," said Vincent Ladue, who has spent the past six years living in Durango.

He enjoys the town, but says sometimes getting around is a challenge.

"If [buildings] aren't accessible, we can't go there," Ladue said.

Ladue took KOB downtown to show just how tough it can be. He knows every step and ramp in the area.

There are an estimated 18,000 disabled people in southwest Colorado, not including tourists.

"It would be a real shame if somebody had to say 'unfortunately, this is the last summer we can visit Durango because we can't get up the steps'," said Jason Ragsdell, Independent Living Coordinator with Southwest Center for Independence.

With so many historic buildings in town, accessibility can be tricky.

"I know it must be frustrating for people with disabilities, because it would be for me," said Rod Barker, owner of the Strater Hotel.

He says he's worked to make changes to the more than 100-year-old hotel, but that it hasn't been easy.

"The historic nature of the building would require that we fundamentally change just about everything," said Barker.

The hotel does have an elevator and one accessible bathroom, but the lobby has stairs on all sides.

"Some places have ramps to go in, some have steps, and we can't go over steps," explained Ladue.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires only requires historic buildings to make minimum changes for accessibility. It doesn't require changes that would drastically change the makeup of the building.

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