On May 10, Joan Willshire, Executive Director of the MN Council on Disability, testified before the Minnesota Senate Capital Investment Committee about the need for funding to make state parks accessible. Her testimony follows:
My name is Joan Willshire, I am the Executive Director of the MN Council on Disability. For 45 years we have advised the Governor, state legislature, state agencies and the public on disability issues including accessibility and the ADA.
A picture speaks a thousand words, which is why I have brought this photo of an inaccessible restroom at Nerstrand Big Woods to help make my case in two minutes. I appreciate the Senate bonding bill includes $500,000 for improving accessibility at our state parks, because this means that you recognize the need.
But that need is big and $500,000 is not nearly enough. Every one of our 75 state parks have accessibility barriers that prevent people with disabilities, veterans, and seniors from using parts of these parks.
On May 8 I was at William O’Brien State Park and their day use area bathrooms looked like this one at Nerstrand State Park. Even if I could do the acrobatics required to get in the stall, I couldn’t shut the door.
The Council has been working with DNR for years on accessibility–every renovation and construction project they do is upgraded to ADA standards. BUT, this often results in stand-alone accessible features within a park while other park features remain completely inaccessible, like this bathroom.
I encourage the committee to make accessibility at our state parks a higher funding priority as you develop the final bonding bill.
People with disabilities like me and our growing elderly population can’t “wait” any longer. Please work this session to make sure the wonderful assets of our state parks can be enjoyed by all Minnesotans.