The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday November 26th

Carrboro women promote accessibility

A new tour guide helps visitors with disabilities.

<p>Ellen Perry sits outside of her home in  Carrboro Friday afternoon. Perry helped create the 2015 Chapel Hill Access Guide for the Orange County Visitors Bureau.</p>
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Ellen Perry sits outside of her home in Carrboro Friday afternoon. Perry helped create the 2015 Chapel Hill Access Guide for the Orange County Visitors Bureau.

Perry wanted to shed light on the difficulties of maneuvering through the areas with a disability. A long-time disabilities advocate who has cerebral palsy and the founder of Advocacy in Action in Carrboro, Perry has since continued to champion rights for those with disabilities in the community.

Recently, Perry helped Valarie Schwartz, former writer of the “Neighbors” column for the Chapel Hill News, to create the 2015-16 Chapel Hill Access Guide for the Orange County Visitors Bureau.

The guide aims to help newcomers with disabilities navigate through the county and highlight venues that are not as easily accessible.

Tourism by people with disabilities, also known as “accessible travel,” is on the rise.

“The guide is a start, but we need a whole lot more help,” Perry said.

Laurie Paolicelli, executive director of the visitors bureau, said the guide will provide a resource for visitors and residents who need a little more help to get around.

“Our vision was based on the growing number of people with disabilities and baby boomers who require additional help in touring our towns and all towns,” she said.

Paolicelli commissioned Schwartz to produce the guide last summer, and Schwartz involved Perry.

“I based the guide off my experience with Ellen and observing her struggles,” Schwartz said. “The more information I collected, the more I realized it needed to mirror the original guide,” Schwartz said.

Using the original visitor’s guide as a template, Schwartz made the necessary adjustments, such as using larger font, to cater to the needs of people with disabilities.

A key was created to evaluate the accessibility of the locations outlined in the parking maps used in the generic visitors guide.

Along the same vein, the guide also assesses the accessibility of the restroom facilities of the locations.

“There are four different ratings for restrooms, ranging from ‘being able to act unassisted’ or ‘needing help opening the weighted door,’” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said the guide’s information helps those with disabilities have as much independence as possible.

“You can hope that someone passing by will help you, but people with disabilities strive for that independence,” she said.

“Someone setting out on their own is a brave person already — having this knowledge in an unfamiliar situation is comforting.”

The guide also outlines the accessibility of the area’s hotels, pinpoints venues with automatic doors and provides details for conducting a self-guided tour of the county.

To create the guide, Schwartz and Perry conducted site visits to measure the accessibility of each location.

While surveying the locations, business owners were shown simple modifications that could be made to accommodate residents with varying physical capabilities, Paolicelli said.

“Until we experience diminished capacity ourselves, it’s very hard to have that perspective, so it was heartening to find open-minded business owners and managers,” she said.

city@dailytarheel.com



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