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Accessibility in Cornelius? Those at meeting say yes

Families want improved sidewalks, recreational opportunities for disabled


A five-and-a-half-hour forum brought 70-some people to the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center in Cornelius Friday to discuss challenges faced by people with disabilities.

It was the third meeting in seven years of the “Cornelius Committee: A Vision for an Accessible Community.” The group is made up of Cornelius families, city officials, Portland State University professors, healthcare providers and community members.

The group’s first and perhaps highest-profile issue, in 2006, focused on the broken or nonexistent sidewalks along Baseline and Adair streets in Cornelius and the challenge they presented to those in wheelchairs and the elderly, not to mention parents maneuvering baby strollers. The city has since upgraded and added sidewalks on Adair. Baseline will follow suit in the near future, officials say.

This time the families focused more on process, according to Phil Cooper, a PSU professor involved in the meeting. When agencies come up with new programs or requirements, Cooper said, families want to ask them: “Have you thought about how this is going to add stress to our lives?”

The Cornelius families are often already facing financial or health stress, he said.

“Having to go through several more referrals for health care (or) having to talk to several more people at the school district to get a problem solved” just makes things worse, he said.

Among Cornelius officials attending the session were City Manager Rob Drake, Community Development Director Dick Reynolds, Mayor Jef Dalin and city councilors Steve Heinrich, and Dave Schamp.

Metro councilor Kathryn Harrington also participated in the meeting.

Recreation poses challenges

The families suggested testing out new programs before putting them in place, Cooper said, repeating a motto used by the disability community: “Nothing About Us Without Us.” In other words, “consult with us — we’re the experts” before creating a new program for us, he noted.

The committee also devoted attention to the issue of recreation, which poses special challenges for people with disabilities, Cooper said. Families came up with a dozen recommendations to make recreation more accessible, touching on everything from swimming pools to restrooms.

One of the most important parts of the meeting, Cooper said, was simply bringing together organizations that hadn't worked closely before. The Oregon Health Authority Office of Equity and Inclusion partnered with Virginia Garcia. Representatives from federal and state agencies joined officials from Cornelius, Forest Grove, Hillsboro and Washington County.

The plan is for a followup in six months, Cooper said.



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