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South Lakes Village Center: Now More Accessible

This week, I'm spotlighting the Reston Accessibility Committee's latest success: access improvements at South Lakes. If you're a person with a disability - or a fan of Chipotle burritos - read on.

It’s been a while since I updated you on the work of RCA’s Reston Accessibility Committee.  Rest assured, though, that they’ve been hard at work during that time, looking for ways to make it easier for people with disabilities to make it around Reston.  This week, I’m happy to report another triumph for RAC.  Thanks to the hard work of Ken Fredgren and his team, South Lakes Village Center is now more accessible than ever for patrons with disabilities.  (Just in time, too, since the opening of the new Chipotle is just around the corner.  Burrito lovers rejoice!)

If you’ve read my previous posts about RAC, you know how they operate.  A Project Manager performs a survey of a shopping center, office park, or other facility to determine whether it is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other related laws.  Once the survey is complete, RAC writes up and submits a report to the property managers or owners detailing the results, as well as recommendations for access improvements.  RAC then offers to work with the management to determine how best to implement the recommendations.  This is community leadership at its finest: a dedicated group of volunteers who work together to achieve real, concrete, positive change in the community.

RAC decided to take on South Lakes Village Center after having received comments about the access challenges there.  Upon performing the survey, RAC did indeed find a number of issues with the center.

For instance, there were a decent number of accessible parking spaces (14 out of a lot of 484), but several of the spaces weren’t actually accessible for many people with disabilities.  How is that, you ask?  All the spaces had the appropriate signage and markings, and they had access aisles and everything.  But some of them were located on steep hills, which pretty much defeats the purpose of making the space accessible in the first place. 

Imagine trying to get out of your car and set up your wheelchair, or use a chair lift, only to find that you couldn’t, because the slope was too steep for you to get out safely.  Not a good situation.  Not only that, it’s illegal: the ADA requires that there be no more than a 2% slope (that is, 1 inch of rise for every 50 inches of length) in any direction from an accessible space.

Also, out of the 14 accessible spaces in the center, 5 were dedicated for either the banks or the gas station, and not useful for patrons of other businesses at the center.  Five more were located in front of the Safeway, which could have been more useful, but there’s a ramp leading down from the Safeway that’s too steep for a wheelchair.  So if you had a disability and you were going anywhere at South Lakes other than the banks, the gas station, or the Safeway, you had to fight for one of only 4 remaining accessible spaces, most of which were on a steep slope!  South Lakes meant well by providing accessible spaces, but the reality for people with disabilities was a lot less welcoming.

Now, thanks to RAC and CBRE, the property managers at South Lakes, the situation is much improved.  This week, CBRE had the parking lot at South Lakes restriped.  The old, badly-sloped accessible spaces are gone, and new accessible spaces have been added on much flatter ground.  Now, getting from car to wheelchair, or vice versa, is much less challenging.  The “van accessible” spaces really can be used by people with lift vans.

The parking space issue was RAC’s primary concern at South Lakes, but the report also included recommendations regarding curb ramps for easier access.  In response to RAC’s report, CBRE did add a new curb ramp.  And if you look in front of the Safeway, you’ll see that the curb ramp now has a detectable warning.  You may have seen these ramps with a few rows of bumps at the edge, and wondered why they were there.  Those bumps are designed to help people with visual impairments find the edge of the ramp, which can be vital; after all, disabilities come in many forms. 

Between the new and improved ramps and the relocated parking spaces, South Lakes Village Center is much more accessible for people with disabilities than it was before.  And it’s thanks to RAC’s volunteers, their diligence and persistence in locating these issues, writing them up, and working to see them resolved.

Generally, the property managers and owners are very receptive to RAC’s work, and they understand the importance of accommodating customers with disabilities.  Not only is it required by law, it’s also good for business: people with disabilities make up almost 20% of the US population, and smart businesses don’t want to alienate such a large base of potential customers.  Happily, CBRE was as receptive as we hoped, and they reacted relatively quickly to the issues we raised.  RAC’s report was submitted to CBRE last May.  Here we are in January, and the new spaces and curb ramp improvements are already in place.  Well done, CBRE!

I’m really proud that RAC is part of RCA.  We’re dedicated to improving the quality of life in Reston, and I can’t imagine a more direct way of doing that than the concrete improvements that RAC has achieved.  I don’t know which project RAC is going to tackle next, but I’m very excited to talk to Ken and find out what lies ahead for this year.

Thanks to Ken and to all the members of RAC for their continued dedication and service.  You’re a credit to your community, and you’re really doing RCA proud.

Restonians, know that RCA is working hard to make this community better.  I look forward to sharing news on our other projects in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, who’s ready to head over to South Lakes for a burrito?  See you soon, Chipotle! 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

BBurns January 10, 2013 at 12:51 PM
Great job, Colin.
Colin Mills January 10, 2013 at 01:58 PM
Thanks, Beth! I'll pass your kudos along to Ken and RAC, who really deserve credit for the effort.
Ken Fredgren January 10, 2013 at 04:41 PM
Thanks for acknowledging this successful collaboration, Colin. The SLVC assessment team was Cynthia Willer, Lee Albritton, Yvonne Park, and I. If folks have concerns about the accessibility of specific locations for customers with disabilities, we would be happy to hear from them. Here's my contact info: fredgren.k@gmail.com, 703-391-9019. We would be glad to hear from anyone who would like to volunteer a small number of hours a month to be part of an assessment team. One current project is Reston Hospital Center's parking lot (moving along nicely) and an upcoming project is the Fox Mill Center parking lot. Per 2004 data, Virginia has approximately 1.5 million people with disabilities - 18.75% of its population. Per US Department of Labor figures, Americans with disabilities contribute $175 billion in discretionary spending to the economy a year. In 2003, it was estimated that diners with disabilities would spend $35 billion in restaurants that year, and that 75% of people with disabilities eat out at restaurants at least once a week.
Colin Mills January 10, 2013 at 07:06 PM
Thanks, Ken, and thank you to Cynthia, Lee, and Yvonne for a job well done! (I would have acknowledged them by name in my post, but I didn't have their names in front of me; thanks for filling in that information.) Thanks also for providing the statistics on the economic power wielded by people with disabilities. For business owners, improving access for people with disabilities is morally, legally, and economically the right thing to do. Potential volunteers: Please heed Ken's call, and help out if you can! I can testify that Ken is a real pleasure to work with, and you'll be doing concrete work for the good of your community.
Gene January 10, 2013 at 08:33 PM
Good work. Sadly that shopping center has become so overcrowded I don't enjoy going there, it's become a dreaded chore rather than something to look forward to. and Metro is not even here yet, It will be interesting to see how well Chipotle does.
Colin Mills January 10, 2013 at 08:41 PM
Thanks, Gene! I know what you mean about the crowding at that center; it can be tough to find a good spot sometimes. I think it shouldn't be too badly affected by the Metro, since it's a fair distance away from the Wiehle station. For us Chipotle fans in South Reston, being able to get a burrito without crossing the Toll Road is a godsend. I'll gladly trade some parking-lot frustration in order to skip the trip up Reston Parkway at rush hour.
Gene January 12, 2013 at 12:21 PM
Well I stopped over at Lakeside Inn last night, something I do almost every Friday. Traffic was pretty bad again/still lasting well into 8PM. I got to see all the new spaces. Seems to me that they have over achieved and I've never quite seen that sort of implmentation. For 2 accessible spots thay have used 3 spots with the one in the middle having the diagonal lines. The net effect if that up by hair cuttery we have lost 5 parking spots that I predict will be under utilized. It was dark and raining so I did not gat a chance to count the spots but I know that there is another cluster down by the Subway/UPS Store with the same configuration. I'm sure there are some standards and they have probably been followed but to me it seems like overkill. I also noticed that there were a number of cars using the spots that did not have handicap tags or temporary permit. Also still looking for the designated spot or two for motorcycles. Lastly regarding your comment about not being affected by Metro, it has already happened it has affected everything around Reston you have to ask yourself how come that shopping center is so crowded these days which began ~18 months ago. Even the Starbucks has become a chore to use and it was re-designed. All I know is that those of us that nove here years ago, 21 for me, never envisioned this type of overcrowding. And look at the plans for new residences that we know about. - Gene
Colin Mills January 14, 2013 at 12:39 AM
I went by the village center on Saturday afternoon, and I can report that 4 of the 6 new accessible spaces were in use, all by people with appropriate permits and tags. I think the spaces will be better utilized than you think. See Ken's statistic above; approximately 18.75% of Virginians have a disability. Even with the additional spaces, fewer than 5% of the spaces in the center are accessible spaces. I've lived in Reston for 33 years and counting, and it's certainly far more populated than it was when I was a kid. There are upsides and downsides to that, but it's certainly consistent with Bob Simon's original vision for Reston.

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