Belfast Post Office improves handicap accessibility
Belfast — The once challenging process of getting into and out of the Belfast Post Office for handicapped customers is now a little easier thanks to a recent upgrade to the facility.
For resident Neva Allen, a trip to the post office was anything, but routine due to the fact she uses a motorized scooter, and while the ramp that runs alongside the building is useful, she had issues navigating through the door at the top of the ramp.
The problem was the glass door was too heavy for her to push open with her arms and a button to make the door open automatically was situated near the front entrance at the top of a set of steps that Neva Allen was unable to use.
That issue prompted Neva and her husband Stephen Allen to begin asking questions about why there wasn't a button next to the side door. The couple then approached The Republican Journal about writing a story highlighting the accessibility problem.
According to the previously published story, which appeared in the May 15 edition of the paper, when Neva Allen would go to the post office, she would wait for a customer to arrive to open the door for her.
After the story was published, Neva Allen said she and her husband didn't hear anything from the post office about changes being made and they were concerned nothing would be done. However, the couple found out recently the post office had two buttons — one outside and one inside the building — installed next to the side door to open it automatically.
Speaking to The Republican Journal Monday, July 7, Neva Allen said she is very grateful to the post office for making the change and allowing her easier access to the building. She noted that with the improved technology for motorized chairs and scooters, people with physical disabilities are able to get out and do more today than they have in the past.
“We have things we need to do like go to the post office or the bank,” Neva Allen said. “I'm very grateful.”
A message left with a United States Postal Service spokeswoman seeking comment was not immediately returned Tuesday, July 8.
The improved access at the post office is just a part of a two-year mission Neva and Stephen Allen are undertaking to make buildings in the city more accessible. The couple, who serve as co-chairs of the Social Action Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Belfast, conducted a survey of Belfast businesses and determined only about 50 percent of them were accessible. Since then, Neva Allen said about 80 percent of the businesses are now accessible.
With the recent changes to the post office, Neva Allen said she will continue to look for ways to address accessibility issues. One of her big issues, she said, is making sure disabled military veterans have access to buildings.
“Seeing them [disabled military veterans] not being able to access places is heartbreaking,” she said.