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DPW focuses on ADA compliance

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - Details surrounding the settlement of a case that dates back a decade are ironed out in federal court today. As a result, one man's quest to bring change to Guam will benefit many to come.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and for some, Roland Taimanglo may be considered as such. Because of a lawsuit he filed a decade ago against the Government of Guam and the Department of Public Works, that agency was ordered to prioritize compliance on local sidewalks, government offices, walkways and roadways with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Today attorneys for the island's public sector, and new DPW director Joanne Brown, along with Taimanglo, appeared before District Court of Guam Judge Joaquin Manibusan to work out the details of the agreement. "The conference went very well today, better then ever with the new leadership in town I think we will be able to work out the agreements," said Taimanglo.

He added that says they have reached a turning point and believes a strong commitment exists with the new leadership in fulfilling DPW's part of the bargain. "There is a lot of people with disabilities and they need to get around they need to get out of their homes like everybody else and not be deterred by barriers or things like that, so the future is going to be brighter for them."

Brown says her agency has completed an assessment of the sidewalks and may need to request local appropriations to address walkways and secondary roads built before 1992. She added, "For current and future projects, this concern should not be an issue primarily because these designs should already be incorporated into the plans and the construction process our job is simple to make sure compliance is met with regards to construction and that should not be an issue it should be on the drawing board to begin with."

The total cost for all projects to be in compliance with the ADA is over $41 million and is to funded by the Federal Highway Administration. Brown says DPW has identified about 50 sites locally that need to be addressed in order for people of all abilities to be able to access them, telling KUAM News, "I think it comes down to being a lot more sensitive about these issues; I mean, those of us we think and assume are able-bodied have no idea what it could be to very quickly have that ability taken away from us. I think to insure the respect and dignity of all members of the community we should be doing all we can to provide that opportunity because everyone is as equally entitled.

"It's going to be brighter not just for people today, but for people of tomorrow because this particular issue not only affects our current situation but it also addresses the future."

While Taimanglo says this will be the last of the conference hearings before a judge, Brown says this won't be the last time they meet with Taimanglo, noting, "One of the things we agreed with Judge Manibusan and Mr. Taimanglo was that we will schedule a meeting with in the next couple and dialogue with him to get his input on and recommendations on the remaining 50 sites on what he would identify as the most critical in terms with needs for persons with disabilities."

While Taimanglo's case ends with a brighter future, there is always room for more heroes on Guam. Brown adds others with or with out disabilities are encouraged to contact DPW and alert them to other sites that might need upgrades in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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