Karen Jarman

Karen Jarman

City of Toledo and The Ability Center Collaborate to Make Neighborhoods More Accessible

Toledo City Council has passed an ordinance drafted in partnership with The Ability Center to make Toledo neighborhoods more accessible for people with disabilities. The ordinance creates a procedure for people with disabilities to request exemptions from some zoning laws directly from the City’s Chief Building Official to allow for reasonable accommodations in accordance with federal law.

“This ordinance is one more way the City has learned to be nimble in addressing the needs of our citizens, through improved policy and public service delivery,” said Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson. “I am proud that we could find a sensible solution to enhancing accessibility by working together.”

Two years ago, Karen Jarman, a veteran with a disability requiring use of a wheelchair, contacted The Ability Center because she had received a ticket for parking her accessible van in her driveway. The ticket was for violating a zoning ordinance that didn’t allow commercial vehicles to be parked in residential neighborhoods. Ms. Jarman faced a fine and the potential that she would be required to get rid of her van. Ms. Jarman shared, “Without an accessible van, I would have no way to get from place to place. I needed a car that would be able to transport my wheelchair.” Due to diligent advocacy efforts, The Ability Center was able to get the ticket lifted, but Ms. Jarman still had no legal protection for her accessible van. To receive a variance to keep her van, Ms. Jarman would have to pay a fine and appear before an appeals board even though she had rights under federal law.

Federal law allows people with disabilities to request reasonable accommodations in zoning where they need to modify their homes because of a disability, but there are no procedures to process those requests locally. The City of Toledo and Ability Center were able to work together to create an ordinance that would allow people with disabilities, like Ms. Jarman, to receive zoning exceptions needed because of their disability quickly and efficiently.

“Having a van that can transport my wheelchair gives me independence. Without it, I would be stuck in my house and unable to participate in my community,” says Ms. Jarman. “This ordinance is a simple solution to a barrier that often prevents people with disabilities from getting to school, work, and social activities.” adds Ms. Hunt Thomas, “We hope that it can be a model for other jurisdictions to increase the accessibility of neighborhoods throughout our region.”