Make buildings accessible to all
Natchez boosters often advertise our city as a warm and welcoming place for retirees and rightfully so with the beautiful scenery and the friendly local people.
But, walk a few blocks in the shoes of a senior citizen or visitor to Natchez trying to complete simple tasks such as paying a bill, buying a burger or visiting the doctor, and it can feel like little thought has been given to making our buildings more user-friendly for the elderly or disabled.
Some attempts to address the problem are puzzling. For instance, one national chain restaurant has a wheelchair ramp, but the entry door opens to the outside, making it impossible to steer a wheelchair through. The wheelchair ramp at one bank is too long, like a 20-yard-long runway. Seven steps greet you at the front, with heavy large doors that also open outward.
Another bank in town has heavy glass doors that open toward the customer.
Even some government buildings present a challenge. Natchez City Hall is a complete maze, almost daring a person in a wheelchair to find his or her way into the building. This may be helped by simple signage pointing a handicapped visitor to an accessible route.
As someone who has had to navigate a patient up a wheelchair ramp at the Mississippi Division of Medicade’s office at Canal and State Streets, I can say with no exaggeration that it is a disaster waiting to happen.
Both doors at the main U.S. Post Office at the corner of Jefferson and Canal streets open outward, too.
These places are by no means the worst or only buildings in Natchez that present certain members of the community with the challenge of getting into a place.
Being somewhat “in compliance” is never enough when your accessibility stops at the top of the wheelchair ramp and you can’t get in the door.
With seniors living longer and remaining active, it is a good idea to be aware of how we can enhance their quality of life.
Lee Early Nelson,