Carrollton neighbors rally for handicap access at Nix library

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Nix library on South Carrollton Avenue (UptownMessenger.com file photo)

Nix library on South Carrollton Avenue (UptownMessenger.com file photo)

By Claire Byun

A Carrollton-based neighborhood association is pushing for a single improvement to the decades-old Nix Library: handicap access.

The Central Carrollton Association, which reaches from South Carrollton Avenue to Broadway Street and Willow Street to South Claiborne Avenue, is working to make sure Nix Library’s future renovations include handicap access points. The library sits an entire floor above ground and does not have ramps or an elevator.

That lack of access violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, neighborhood association chair Paul Baricos said at the group’s September meeting.

“We’ve got to keep the spotlight on everything that’s going on at Nix,” Baricos said, adding that the publicly funded library’s programs and staffing are also important.

The neighborhood association has heard complaints from many central Carrollton residents about the library, and resident Nancy Lally said the board is working to involve an advocacy group to appeal to city staff.

Lally added that handicap access isn’t just for people in wheelchairs; people with walkers need a ramp, and mothers with strollers shouldn’t have to lug their gear upstairs. The CCA just wants everyone to have fair access to a public amenity, Lally said.

“We’ve been working on this for at least a year,” she said.

The association started gathering names of people affected by the lack of access during the summer, and the next step is figuring out which residents are willing to put their names on a formal case, Lally said. The Advocacy Center, which is taking on the handicap cause, wants a list of names — and people who are willing to publicly advocate for the ADA requirement — before considering bringing the matter to city government, she said.

In spite of the preparations, the goal is to avoid an actual lawsuit while still gaining handicap access for all residents, Baricos said. Barry Kohl, CCA member, said many public entities will resolve issues without legal action if they receive a formal letter from an advocacy group mentioning the laws that are being broken and specific clients who are affected.

Governmental agencies usually work quicker if legal action is a possibility, Kohl added.

“It’s not something that happens immediately, and a lot of times it’s people trying to avoid a lawsuit,” Kohl said.

The CCA isn’t officially supporting any legal action regarding the library, but they are stating their problem with a lack of handicap access to the public building.

“It’s more than appropriate for us to say it’s more than outrageous that a public library doesn’t have handicapped access,” Baricos said.

The CCA has been working to improve the Nix Library for several years, Baricos said. The association is pushing for improved programming and staffing, along with ADA compliance.

Nix is also scheduled for upcoming renovations, but those improvements don’t include ramps or an elevator, the activists said. Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office did not respond for a request for comment.

Claire Byun is a freelance reporter based in New Orleans.

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