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VENTURA COUNTY BUSINESS

City Agrees to Improve Access for the Disabled at Civic Arts Plaza

November 18, 1998|ANDREW STEVEN HARRIS

THOUSAND OAKS — City officials have reached an agreement with the Department of Justice to make the Civic Arts Plaza more accessible to the disabled.

The agreement calls for the city to add and relocate accessible seating for the arts plaza's theaters, install a text telephone for the public, add visual fire alarms for the hearing impaired, and provide better signs for parking for the disabled and unisex toilets. The city also must renovate performers' dressing rooms, bathrooms and shower stalls to make them more accessible to the disabled.

According to federal officials, Thousand Oaks agreed to make the modifications to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

"It's been a long haul, but I'm ecstatic today," said wheelchair-bound activist Phyllis Ellis, who with her husband, John, had filed the initial complaint. "I have been treated like a third-class citizen while they stood up and told the world there was nothing wrong with that plaza. . . . After four years, we won."

City officials downplayed the significance of the settlement, suggesting that the $30,000 in changes were minor.

Assistant City Atty. Nancy Schreiner said federal officials "actually agreed with us on a number of things. They found that for most of the things in the original complaint, nothing was wrong."

Other changes, Schreiner added, "were things that we still disagreed legally were things that we had to do, but we felt it was just easier to do them than to fight it."

Schreiner said that the city has already installed most of the changes agreed to in the settlement.

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