Self-advocate inspires library to make entrance wheelchair accessible

Self-advocate inspires library to make entrance wheelchair accessibleChuck Hartson participates in The Resource Center’s Day Habilitation Program on Fluvanna Avenue in Jamestown.  Dressed in a suit and tie, he looks ready to take on the world.  For now, though, he is taking on the James Prendergast Library, helping the facility make changes to its front entrance.

Chuck, after taking an online self-advocacy class, voiced his concerns about the library’s lack of wheelchair accessibility.  Matt Homan, a Habilitation Specialist at Fluvanna, helped explain some of what Chuck was doing.

“Chuck asked if he could set up a meeting with someone from the library,” Matt commented.  “So we had a meeting with … Tina Scott, if I recall, and someone from the maintenance department down there, and Chuck voiced his concerns about the doors down there — it’s hard to get in and out —and a bunch of other stuff too, actually.”

Tina Scott, the library’s Assistant Director, said library officials first met with Chuck in January.  She said the library has wanted to install wheelchair-accessible doors in but could not acquire the funding needed to do it.  Chuck and the library’s new Director, Linda Mielke, suggested they seek funding from the City’s of Jamestown’s Department of Development.

Tina explained that seeing Chuck’s initiative and being able to put a face to the issue of accessibility gave the library a big push to actually go through with the project.  She commented that having Chuck there as a representative for people with disabilities was helpful.

“Just knowing that he is a user of the library, that he wants to use it and isn’t able to; we want to be able to provide those services to everybody, no matter what their disability,” Tina said.  We see a human face, and we see how it impacts him.”

She also said library officials were impressed by Chuck’s ability to be an advocate for himself and others with physical disabilities.

Currently the library has given the price quotes to the Department of Development and is waiting to have the agreement approved by the library’s Board of Trustees.  It is hoped the new doors will be installed by August.

Chuck has already taken a class on self-advocacy and is now taking another one.  On why he became interested in self-advocacy, Chuck said, “I know some friends who did it, so I did.”

Matt explained that Chuck has been taking online classes through Erie BOCES, and The Resource Center has been able to help him with easier accessibility to the classes and to the computer.

Chuck said that the classes are on “how to be an advocate for my own self,” and through the courses he learned how to help advocate for better wheelchair accessibility at the library.

“As a result of meeting with them, they’ve started to put things in motion to revamp the front, the whole doorway system there in the entrance,” Matt said.  “They’ve had contractors in there …and it looks like everything’s getting through. …  It wasn’t long after that first class that he got to put some of this into action.”

“I’ve been busy,” Chuck said with a smile.

Besides taking classes and being a self-advocate, Chuck also likes visiting his family, baseball and cars, particularly Chevys.

“I used to help my dad with [cars].  I used to hold stuff on my lap for [him],” Chuck explained.  He also said he has a book full of baseball cards at home.

Originally from Falconer, Chuck hopes to move out of the Jamestown area at some point to see new places, but for now he is working with TRC to move toward more individualized care through a Community Support Services plan.

“They’re going to look at Chuck kind of picking and choosing who he wants to do what for him,” Matt said.  “Chuck’s pretty excited about it, and I am too.”  Turning toward Chuck, he added, “I think it’s pretty awesome that you’ll get to have a say in how your services are going to be delivered.”

The smile on Chuck’s face when he talks about his classes and his advocacy work says more than words about his excitement for the progress at the library and what he is learning in his courses.

Chuck hopes to take another class after he is done with his current one.  He also has plans to get more people involved with advocacy for those with disabilities: “I’m going to make some phone calls out to Buffalo.  I’ll let you know how that goes.”


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