ITHACA, N.Y. — After reading that the Commons playground was advertised as accessible for the handicapped, Chelsea Hill was eager to bring her 3-year-old daughter to the new space.

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“We were really excited,” Hill said at a Common Council meeting on Wednesday night beside the girl, who is in a wheelchair.

Hill, however, said they were disappointed by the result. “When we went down there, every single part of the playground was a step up,” Hill said at City Hall. “We were disappointed. … I don’t know the reasoning of everything being a step up.”

The new Commons has gotten much praise — including from us — but Hill said she and her daughter were saddened that much of the playground is largely inaccessible for wheelchair-bound children.

Photos courtesy of Mayor Myrick’s Facebook page

In response, Mayor Svante Myrick noted that the playground was built to Americans with Disabilities Act standards and met the legal requirements for accessibility. Normally, he said, complying with the ADA’s rules also ensures that the resulting project does enough to provide access for the disabled.

Still, he said that sometimes — and in this case — the “ADA is not enough.” Myrick agreed that the Commons’ playground could and should be more accessible for disabled children — and said the city would be working to make it so.

“I think the playground is beautiful; for a lot of children, it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “But I agree that for children with wheelchairs it would not be very fun.”

Myrick said the city will evaluate the situation and do what it can to improve disability access on the playground moving forward.

Speaking after Myrick at the meeting was Larry Roberts, of the city’s Disability Advisory Committee.

Roberts, who uses a wheelchair, agreed with Myrick that the playground adheres to disability law but also said that it should be improved.

“We’re not claiming that the structure is out of (ADA) compliance; but, as you said, it’s simply not usable for children with a variety of disabilities,” Roberts said.

A committee including city planning staff has been formed to address the issue, Roberts said. Roberts said he was encouraged by the initial results to find a solution.

“We’re very pleased for the moment with where the discussion is,” Roberts said.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.