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One man says the new Duval County Courthouse is difficult to navigate in a wheelchair

7:55 AM, Jul 3, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- After a 3-week delay in opening its doors and a price tag of $350 million, the new Duval County Courthouse is now up and running.

Now, one man said the new courthouse is tough to navigate in a wheelchair.

RELATED: Who decided to move to the new Duval County Courthouse before it was ready?

This comes after the City of Jacksonville just agreed to a $37 million dollar settlement with the Department of Justice over Americans with Disabilities Act violations at other city-owned properties.
 
It's a door that's already pretty heavy. But try opening it in a wheelchair.

RELATED: New Duval County Courthouse parking: Prices rise dramatically

"You gotta get some weight behind these things to get it open, because there is no button." said Attorney Robert Davis as he tries to open the door.

"I am technically a quadriplegic. It's not just that door," Davis said. "It's the doors to the clerk, the doors to those clerks. Every door in here, that is that size or bigger, you have to go through that in order to just get in. Courtrooms are the same way."

And there are a lot of doors in the 800,000-square-foot courthouse. 

"It's frustrating," Davis said.

Davis said the only doors that are automated are the ones at both sides of the entrance of the building.

He said those who built the building did not make accommodations for people with disabilities. 

"The City, no. The judges, yes," he said.

Davis said the judges have been extra accommodating with making his and others' commutes within the courthouse easier. Bailiffs and guards are available to help open the doors, but he doesn't see that as a viable long-term solution.

"I met with several of the judges that were on the planning committee and they made wonderful recommendations to assist on this and I really don't think the City, or the designer or the people really listened," Davis said.

And it's not just doors that Davis said creates challenges for him on a daily basis. Most attorneys have the chance to conference with the judge in his chambers.

"If I have to get in to talk to the judge, obviously you can't because whether it's on the bench because there are steps to the bench, or steps up to get into his office, if he wants to have a private conference with the attorney, and you're in a wheelchair, you can't," Davis said.

Davis said there are other areas with accessibility problems like the jury room. "It's a lot more compact," he added

And some hallways are narrow.  Davis showed us how they are difficult to navigate in a wheelchair. 

"If you're walking down here with you and your client, everybody's got to move their feet and their legs," he said.

First Coast News has contacted the City of Jacksonville and the Department of Justice to see if these are ADA violations. We are still waiting to hear back. We also have a call into Chief Judge Donald Moran. He is out of the office this week.

Davis said he is working on a list of recommendations for the Chief Judge that would make the courthouse easier to navigate for those who are disabled.

First Coast News

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