PLATTSBURGH - Debra Buell has lived her life from a wheelchair for the last 20 years. And, it's been a life which has been made more difficult with poor handicap accessibility.
Buell, who was diagnosed with lupus in 1984, is currently working with the North Country Center for Independence as an independent advocate to help make people aware of the difficulties those with disabilities face.
"I've been pushed over, fallen on, broke a guy's foot when he walked in front of me going into a post office in New York City," she said. "The everyday assault on your senses for a disabled person is overwhelming. Because nobody can imagine it until they have to deal with it."
To change this, Buell is working with NCCI and anyone else interested in helping, to put together a video of problem areas in Plattsburgh and the surrounding towns.
"I've only surveyed 111 businesses so far," Buell explained. "But of them, 32 of them are lawyers and are not accessible."
"They should know better, she added. "They know the law."
However, Buell is hoping people will submit photos of areas that may not be handicap-accessible, or are considered accessible, but a wheelchair still wouldn't be able to get through.
"If you're looking down and you see a whole bunch of big holes, cracks ... that's going to do terrible damage to your chair, or your body," said Buell. "If you're in a manual wheelchair and you try to go down one of those, you'll tip."
Buell is planning on gathering the photos and hopes to put together a video in the near future and post it to YouTube to help bring awareness to the problem.
The project, known as "The Accessibility Project," will also be taken into the elementary schools where youngsters, who will be referred to as "Disability Detectives," will learn in a creative way what to look for on the streets.