Beauregard Courthouse inaccessible to disabled people

Web Extra: Beauregard Courthouse

BEAUREGARD PARISH, LA (KPLC) - If it's hard for you to walk or if you use a wheel chair, the Beauregard Parish Courthouse is not accessible to you, at least right now. They have lifts at the courthouse inside and out. The one outside often gives people trouble, but the one inside hasn't worked at all since February 22.

Cord Ensminger uses a wheel chair because he does not have the use of his legs.  He is used to maneuvering around, but he admits the Beauregard Courthouse is a challenge. "Sometimes I can operate this lift by myself but when I get to those double doors, if both of them aren't undone, I can't go through it. So then, I either have to knock on the probation officer's window or find somebody on the phone to come open the second door."

And inside, the lift won't work at all, and hasn't for nearly four weeks. And when it does work bells sound and lights flash.  Ensminger says, "I mean it's difficult and everybody knows you're coming. It's dangerous all the way around. And you know, everybody else and come and go from the courthouse at will and, you know, it takes me three phone calls and thirty minutes if everything is working to get up there."

A few months ago Rebecka Dick says she had to crawl up the stairs. "It was just very painful for me to crawl up those steps and very humiliating. I was in my good clothes. I had a court appointment and it was just very embarrassing."

The judges, Martha Ann O'Neal and Kerry Anderson, are frustrated because some court cases have had to be canceled. And people have even become stranded upstairs.  Said Judge O'Neal, "There were two people in the courtroom that had been brought up by the lift but because the lift broke, they could not get down. And they were in the courtroom for more than an hour waiting to see how they might get down."

"We do not have an elevator in the courthouse. God forbid, something tragic happen in the building that we would have to get them out in an emergency, " said Judge Anderson. "Everyone needs to have access to the courtroom to have access to justice."

The part needed is expected to be in Thursday and the lift fixed by the end of the day. Still Police Jury President Biscuit Smith says it's an embarrassment, even when it is working. "Lights go off, its bells are ringing."

Leon Lagneaux chairs the Beauregard Citizens Courthouse Renovation Committee working with the police jury on long term solutions. "It's a deplorable situation." He says committee members feel the best long term approach is to renovate the old courthouse to meet modern needs--but they will have to find some money to do that. To hear more of our interviews with Beauregard Officials about the courthouse and what needs to be done, click here.

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