Disabled woman struggles at Beauregard Courthouse

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA. (KPLC) -It can be hard enough to find your way through government buildings such as a courthouse complex. It can be even worse if you have a severe disability.

Charlotte Chambers is only in her fifties, yet each step is a struggle because she has severe emphysema. In no time, she's out of breath. She recently had business here at the Beauregard Parish Courthouse--a beautiful and historic building. Yet for Charlotte, stairs are formidable. She's horrified how hard it is to get around. "When I have to come to the courthouse, I have to make sure I have enough time. I go up and take a few steps and then I have to sit like I'm sitting now, catch my breath, get some oxygen moving and then go up some more."

After complaining, she finds out there are a few handicapped parking spaces and signs. She just didn't see them. And since she's complained they've put up more signs. Signs that also direct her to a chair lift she didn't now about. It's not so easy to use... A buzz for assistance goes unanswered-- until a citizen goes inside and finds help. Charlotte forgot her cell phone today. It's a simple solution. Explains the maintenance man, "Door's not closed! Shut the door! Make sure that door's closed."

So the problem was, Charlotte didn't close the door hard enough.  Still, she says, "What they call provisions for the handicapped are absolutely unacceptable."

Charlotte remains frustrated and dissatisfied. "I have to have access to public buildings like everyone else. Something's got to be done. This courthouse has to be accessible to handicapped people."

Turns out parish officials and the judges know all too well how bad it is and would welcome corrective measures. Says Beauregard Parish Administrator Betty Cunningham, "For any handicapped person, we're totally and 100% sympathetic."

The building is the Police Jury's responsibility and administrator Betty Cunningham says they need taxpayers' support to renovate and expand. "We've even had architectural renderings but never have we concluded and come to an agreement what we're going to build and how we're going to ask for the tax money or revenue to fund it. So, it's time. It's way past time."

But for now, those with disabilities may want to plan ahead for difficulties they're likely to run into if they have to go to court.

At 2 p.m. Tuesday members of a Beauregard Police Jury Committee will meet to discuss the courthouse needs.

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