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Accessibility becomes a hot issue where new dining areas have been built

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - In most cases, the new dining areas with parklets and patios have been well received and a financial savior for restaurant owners. That reaction has been different from those who are blind or in a wheel chair.

For months, the City of Santa Barbara has been watched carefully and warned by those protecting the accessibility requirements for those who are mobility and visually challenged.

There have been numerous examples of walkways and city sidewalks that have become blocked by tables, chairs, signs, planters, and promotional items.

Nick Koonce is not only in a wheel chair, but has a strong voice on the issue.

At a recent city council meeting, during a discussion of sidewalk tables and chairs, Koonce pointed out the ongoing frustration he has had to find someone in the city willing to enforce the accessibility requirements.

Speaking to the City Council in a public comment period, Koonce said he has not been helped by the councilmembers on this issue, and it was brought up months ago.

Several restaurant owners recently were told to improve their access ramps. Many have had newly made ramps, but not all have side edges as required.

Last year when the parkets and sidewalk dining areas were expanded, one restaurant owner put up signs to redirect pedestrians off the sidewalk, over the curb and into the street. That infuriated those in wheel chairs.

As a member of the Access Advisory Committee (AAC) Koonce said he felt, "completely stonewalled by the city."

Watch tonight on Newschannel 3-12 and KKFX Fox 11.

(More details, video and photos will be added here later today.)

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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