The City of San Antonio tonight takes the first step toward making the 1890 City Hall building more accessible to the disabled, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The main entrance to City Hall, as was the design of many public buildings in the 19th Century, is a towering and imposing staircase reaching to the front door, which is on what is actually the second floor of the building. The idea at the time was to create an 'imposing' front for the City's main government building, but downtown Councilman Roberto Trevino, who is an architect, says the result is an imposing barrier that shuts out the disabled.
Trevino says the fact that City Hall is a protected historic structure does not mean the City shouldn't make sure the disabled can enter their city building through the front door like every other citizen.
Currently, the 'disabled entrance' to City Hall is through a tunnel in the back of the building that leads into the basement.
"This is a great, great measure and a great statement that we are making here for the City," Trevino said. "We believe as we move forward, this will really set the tone and set a great example for the entire State of Texas."
Trevino says area architects and planners, along with philanthropist and homebuilder Gordon Hartman are working together on a solution.
"He is a leader in these kind of issues," Trevino said of Hartman, who is the builder of the unique 'Morgan's Wonderland' theme park for the disabled. "Not just here locally but internationally. He is constantly coming up with ways to make our world more accessible to everybody."
Trevino says the problem with the existing entrance is that a standard wheelchair ramp won't work, because, at the pitch called for by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ramp would have to extend out into Flores Street in front of the building. And a 'switchback ramp' would be clumsy and would damage the appearance of the historic building.So a compromise has to be worked out.
"If you have a disability and you can't go up a flight of steps, you have to go around back to the basement of City Hall," he said. "That is unacceptable."