Disabled advocate pushes for parking | VailDaily.com

Disabled advocate pushes for parking

NWS Handicap Parking DT 6-21-07

VAIL ” Vail Resorts does a lot for disabled skiers, Sarah Will said.

The company gives disabled people discounted ski passes. It has wheelchairs at Mid-Vail, Eagle’s Nest and Two Elk. It runs an adaptive skiing program and hosts disabled-skier events throughout the year.

But disabled people can’t use these services if there’s no place for them to park, Will said.

“Imagine having all these great things and not being able to get there,” she said.

Will, executive director of AXS Vail Valley, a group that advocates for better access for disabled people, is trying to make sure there’s enough disabled parking in Vail.

“Our mission is directly affected by parking,” Will said.

Construction in Vail has eliminated some disabled parking, and left its return in jeopardy.

“Most of the stuff that was created years ago was kind of done on a handshake,” Will said.

Construction eliminated three handicapped spaces that used to be at the old gondola building.

Will recently met with officials from Vail Resorts Development Company, who then committed to three handicapped parking spaces adjacent to the gondola.

The spaces will be ready by the end of next week, said Tom Miller of Vail Resorts Development Company, who met with Will. Miller said he didn’t even know the old spaces even existed until he talked with Will.

While those spaces are not required by law, the company wanted to ensure there was sufficient access for people with disabilities, Miller said.

“That’s one of our core values at Vail Resorts,” he said.

When those parking spaces eliminated last year, some disabled skiers were skipping Vail for other resorts, Will said.

It’s important to have parking near the ski lifts so disabled skiers can go to the mountain without having someone to help them.

“Everyone wants to be independent, no matter who you are,” he said. “I’m not afraid to ask for help, but that’s not something everyone wants to do.”

Will also met with Vail’s Event Review Committee this week. Sybill Navas, part of the committee, said Will gave them some good ideas.

While the town was complying with the law, there are some easy, small things the town can do to improve access for events, Navas said.

“For Street Beat, sometimes the way things are set up make the handicapped spaces difficult to access,” Navas said.

Vail should adhere to national standards for the amount of parking it must have for facilities, said Mark Gordon, Vail councilman.

“We want all of our guests to have a spectacular time, not just guests with certain physical attributes,” Gordon said.

Even with Vail Resorts’ recent commitment for more handicapped spots, Will said there’s still a need for more spaces ” not only adjacent to the mountain but all around Vail.

One space was eliminated near Buzz’s Ski Shop, she said. Another at Checkpoint Charlie is often blocked during special events, she said. More disabled parking is needed all over, she said.

With the population here getting older, the need goes beyond just people with permanent disabilities, Will said.

If Vail can offer easy access to its recreational amenities, it can bring more guests to the valley who are spending money in restaurants, hotels and other businesses, she said.

“It’s an economic thing,” she said.

Will, an Edwards resident, was paralyzed from the waist down in a skiing accident in 1988. She later joined the U.S. Disabled Ski Team and won 12 Paralympic gold medals over more than a decade.

About a year and a half ago, she started the job of executive director of AXS Vail Valley, a group that she started with Craig and Sally Sakin, Beaver Creek second-home owners.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

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