The renovations of the Lerner Theatre were completed in 2011 and as such the theater was then required by Federal Law to be fully ADA compliant, including accessible parking. That did not happen.
There are virtually no ADA compliant handicapped parking places anywhere near the Lerner Theatre. This fact means that many disabled folks and others can not get into the theater because they are unable to walk that far. I attempted to get the former Mayor - Dick Moore — to pay attention but he refused to do anything constructive. At that time, the only thing the city was willing to do was put a non-compliant ADA parking place on Main Street across from the Lerner in front of Patrick Industries. At that time, I decided if Moore won the election, I would sue the city the next day.
Here are the problems. The parking lot on Franklin and Main is not adequate nor compliant with ADA because it is below street level and the grade is too great for most disabled folks to use. The handicapped spot in front of Patrick Industries is also non-compliant. The odd spaces in front of the ADEC facility are also non-compliant because there are no cut curbs. Essentially the only accessible parking place is behind the theater. Of course one cannot go through the back door because of the stairs. So there is one spot for a theater that holds over 1,700 people and the Crystal Ballroom which holds over 400. Totally unacceptable.We have been talking with Mayor Neese who seems to want to make changes but recent events make those changes imperative and immediate action is needed. We have repeatedly asked for Valet Parking so everyone can get in. So far nothing. Just this year, there have been several city planning and community planning events at the Lerner which excluded, as always, the disabled. This is blatant discrimination. Now, the Lerner is hosting another Vibrant Communities event and the president is coming and once again the disabled will be excluded. We should never have to beg for special accommodations but it is too late for both upcoming events to get any meaningful accommodations and get the word out to people with disabilities. I am now insisting on two things: First — no more major events especially community planning events may be scheduled at the Lerner or Crystal Ballroom until they become fully compliant and accessible. Second, the General Manager, David Smith, must be forced to unlock the automatic doors on Main Street. Thus far he has refused to do so which is a major ADA violation. I have researched thoroughly the options we have and am confident we stand on solid ground. If something is not done NOW, other actions will be taken. Enough is Enough.
Richard Wolf is an Elkhart resident and is founder of the Elkhart Advocacy for the Handicapped and Disabled.