Rapid City's Commitment to Accessibility
– By Catherine Greseth
In the three decades since passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the City of Rapid City has been committed to addressing issues and barriers affecting residents with disabilities in our community. This is a long-standing commitment of City leaders as well as the mission of the Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities, which has worked to educate and inform the public on disability issues since the committee's formation in 1975.
There are numerous visible improvements to accessibility throughout City facilities, parks and streets. A few examples:
- Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP) underwent a $20 million renovation in 2012 expanding and updating the terminal facility. Part of that renovation included all new ADA restrooms and the addition of three jet bridges for easier access to aircraft. All seven gates at Regional Airport now have jet bridge loading ability. Regional Airport also employs part-time Skycaps for ADA assistance from curbside to plane and back. In 2016, Regional also developed a brand new website that is fully accessible.
- During 2016-17, the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center and the City of Rapid City invested $1.5 million into ADA upgrades/improvements at the facility. Improvements included new ADA parking, driveway, and sidewalk on the west side of the facility, complete remodel of eight sets of bathrooms, as well as handrail, doors and door hardware replacement throughout the facility. These overall improvements resulted in more clearly-identified ADA access to the facility, ease of mobility throughout the facility, and defined accessible pathways through the interior of the complex.
- In 2009, a $1.7 million Civic Center Theatre remodeling project provided better access with ramps, elevator, improvements to restrooms and theater seating. A year later, life safety, ADA and paging systems improvements were installed in the Civic Center facility.
- In an effort to improve the accessibility of City Streets, the City programs $50,000-$100,000 each year for specific ADA improvement projects where we identify a deficient area and bring the intersection into compliance. In some cases, funding may be “saved” and used for larger projects every two years instead of annually. This is separate and above those construction projects that include ADA enhancements.
- ADA improvement projects include reconstructing ramps, or installing them if there were none, adding detectable warning panels, rebuilding sidewalks near ramps at slopes that meet accessibility guidelines, and in some cases accessible pedestrian signals (APS) are added. These projects have included upgrading accessibility in areas near schools, or heavily-used intersections. In addition to the special ADA projects, all street reconstruction projects and mill/overlay street rehabilitation projects include bringing accessible ramps within the project limits into compliance.
- Since 2013, the City tracks the square feet of detectable warning panels installed annually. These panels are the domed, colored panels (usually yellow) that are installed on the ramps.
- The City also scheduled upgrades when necessary to City parking lots and downtown parking spaces to maintain compliance. When new developments include street construction, ADA ramps are included with those projects. These upgrades are paid for by developers. When the State DOT reconstructs a state highway within the City, they also include ADA upgrades within the project limits.
- In 2008, ADA upgrades were made to Dinosaur Park.
- Throughout the years, the City's Parks system has included expansion of the City's accessible bike path, playground and park enhancements, accessible parking and construction of accessible restroom facilities in many areas. In 2010, six ADA restroom facilities were built in the City's park system, including three at Canyon Lake, two at Robbinsdale Park and one at Storybook Island. The restroom facility at the Memorial Park Band Shell was upgraded when the Promenade was built and these efforts also included the building of the Legacy Commons ADA-accessible restroom. The Founders Park ADA-restroom was also constructed and in recent years similar ADA restroom facilities have been built at the Star of the West Complex, Parkview Tennis Courts, Vickie Powers Park and at Skyline Trails.
- Other improvements by the Parks and Recreation Department include the ADA-accessible playground at Legacy Commons, elevators in the Roosevelt Ice Arena and Roosevelt Swim Center. There are four zero-depth pools in the City and these pools include chair lifts. There is additional ADA parking at the Swim Center.
- In 2019, school administrative offices moved out of the City/School Administration Building at 300 Sixth Street. City Hall is currently undergoing substantial renovations with a focus on improving accessibility. The Finance Office now offers an accessible customer service desk for the general public.
Rapid City has undergone numerous changes since the ADA was signed into law with an emphasis on accessibility, removing physical barriers and working to inform and educate the public to foster better understanding, and changes in attitudes, towards individuals with disabilities and issues. We have come a long way and we have more to do - the City is committed to the ongoing effort.