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Durango business, nonprofit honored for improving accessibility

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Friday, July 27, 2018 2:14 PM
Kevin Brennan, owner of the Exxon at Main Avenue and 25th Street, remodeled the restrooms at the gas station to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Remodeling provided more room around the toilet, handrails, a lower sink and wider doors.
Kevin Brennan, near right, owner of the Exxon at Main Avenue and 25th Street, was awarded Thursday for remodeling restrooms to make them more accessible. Remodeling provided more room around the toilet, handrails, a lower sink and wider doors. Also pictured, from left, are Ruthie Uhl, Martha Mason and Jason Ragsdell all with Southwest Center for Independence.

After Kevin Brennan, the owner of five Exxon gas stations in Durango, was sued for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act last year, he took the opportunity to do some remodeling.

“It wasn’t fun to deal with, but it was a good thing,” he said.

Brennan’s station was one of at least 10 Durango businesses sued by the same Florida man, a “tester” for ADA compliance in 2016.

Now, Brennan describes the lawsuit as a blessing – it prompted him to make changes that needed to happen. The men’s and women’s restrooms at one gas station were originally built in the 1960s. Both were completely updated.

Brennan’s shop was among those honored Thursday, the 28th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, by advocates for better accessibility. The group included staff members from the Southwest Center for Independence and representatives of the Accessible Communities Team.

ACT provides matching funds to businesses that want to update their buildings to be more ADA compliant.

ACT has received about $25,000 from the city of Durango each year for three years, and thus far, 14 organizations, including Brennan’s station, have received funding.

Building projects have included installing new handrails in bathrooms, new ramps and complete bathroom remodels.

La Plata Youth Services, a nonprofit that serves at-risk youth, was also honored for putting in a ramp and an accessible bathroom at its new location in the old La Plata County manager’s house next to the La Plata County Fairgrounds.

Work was required because the building was converted from a residence to a commercial building, LPYS Executive Director Katy Pepinsky said. The nonprofit received $4,000 from ACT, which helped pay for some of the largest modifications.

“They were really supportive of what we were doing,” she said.

ACT disbursed $17,627 in 2017, and it would like to grant more funds in the coming years, said Jason Ragsdell, an independent living program manager for the Southwest Center for Independence.

mshinn@durangoherald.com

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