Funding for disability access tabled

WINDOW ROCK

During Tuesday’s Budget and Finance Committee special meeting, money for certain Navajo government facilities to provide access for people with disabilities was tabled due to incomplete budget forms.

The legislation (No. 107-22), if approved by Council and the president’s office, will provide $13.3 million from the Unreserved, Undesignated Fund Balance for renovations.

The funding is requested by the Facilities Maintenance Department.

“The Navajo Nation Facilities Maintenance Department annual budget allocations are limited to routine maintenance and repairs,” the request provided in the legislation states.

“Since funds are not available to address all ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) building deficiencies,” the request states, “FMD is restricted to addressing parking pads and access ramps in all increments.”

In total, 164 buildings across the Nation need to be upgraded or repaired to meet 2010 ADA standards. A breakdown of how many government buildings and the costs needed for each building was provided with the legislation.

Central Agency has a total of 15 buildings on the list, Eastern has 14, Fort Defiance has 95, Northern has 29 and Western has 11.

Repair and maintenance of these buildings to be ADA compliant was mandated by the Navajo Nation Council in 2018 when the Navajo Nation Civil Rights of Individuals with Disabilities Act was approved.

The act states that no individual with a disability shall be denied or excluded from the benefit of any service, program, or activity offered by any government or public entity on the Navajo Nation.

Due to this, the FMD has requested funding to be in compliance with the act because no funding was allocated when the amendment was approved in 2018.

Hoskie Benally, president of the Navajo Nation Advisory Council on Disability, said there are 40,000 to 50,000 Navajos with a disability on the Nation and access to buildings is a problem.

Benally said the plan to fix the problem goes back to 1979. However, nothing has been done about it.

In 1979, the Navajo Affirmative Action Plan was passed to ensure that Diné with disabilities would have equal access to employment opportunities and public buildings within the Nation.

“Since that time, there’s never been a real concerted effort,” he said. “There has been other legislations, example, an executive order by President (Ben) Shelly for public building accessibility but nothing really came out of that.”

A nationwide survey questioning people who chose to participate about accessibility indicated access to public buildings was one of the top concerns, Benally said.

He said parking spaces, ramps, bathrooms and conference rooms were the specific complaints that Diné people with disabilities spoke about.

“We’re asking for your support on this,” Benally said. “Taa’ shodi, we’re speaking for forty- to fifty-thousand Navajos that are out there with disability.”


About The Author

Hannah John

Hannah John is from Coyote Canyon, N.M., and currently based out of Gallup as a reporter for the Navajo Times. She is Bit’ah’nii (Within His Cover), born for Honágháahnii (One Who Walks Around), maternal grandfather is Tábaahí (Water Edge) and paternal grandfather is Tódich’ii’nii (Bitter Water). She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico with a bachelor’s in communications and a minor in Native American studies. She recently worked with the Daily Lobo and the Rio Grande Sun.

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