Community Posts ~ Allen Brown


Does Sonoma Do Enough For Citizens With Accessibility Needs?

Posted on October 15, 2021 by Allen Brown

Every community in America has a population living with disability. In Sonoma and the wider county, US Bureau figures show that number to be 8% in the under-65 category alone. For these citizens, inclusion in daily life can be difficult. There are numerous barriers to full involvement in civic society, whether they be related to mobility conditions or visual and hearing impairment. Sonoma fares well in some cases, such as the outdoors and in voting enfranchisement; not so well in others.

Public facilities

Sonoma is at the heart of wine-making country and has staked its reputation on such. There are multiple excellent venues for events, such as weddings, and there are considerations to be made when looking at how people diagnosed with disability can access such venues. Just a few important things to ask when when planning an accessible wedding include: Are there ramps in place to the venue and facilities? Will staff be able to provide appropriate service? Will everyone feel comfortable? As the Press Democrat outlined in 2020, there are many fantastic venues around but not all tick every regulatory box. Sonoma businesses can do better in that regard.

The great outdoors

Where the county fares better is in its access to the outdoors. Disability advocates Disability Horizons notes that many of the parks and trails around the county are accessible, as are some of the outdoors experiences, such as hot air balloon rides, local safari and the Fort Ross Historic Park. When it comes to county-wide experiences, disabled residents are covered.

Civil services

While not as regularly frequented, services such as voting are by law necessary to be inclusive. According to one opinion piece submitted to the Star, current measures are pretty good, and fairly progressive. The situation is so positive that students are looking for ways that could make the process even easier, and have highlighted the potential for ridesharing or city-paid taxicabs to help ferry citizens living with disability to the polling booth. With digital voting now also widespread, from remote locations, the options are becoming even more nuanced. There are risks, however; assuming digital voting to be a magical cure for inclusivity problems ignores the risk posed by a lack of audio and visual adaptation.

Generally speaking, however, Sonoma is getting it right. Citizens are generally well-treated and included when they are living with disability. Private business can do a little more to get it right, but the progress is there for all to see.


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