Disabled push for accessible bowling

Posted: Monday, July 26, 2004

It's teamwork for Corrine Jackson to go bowling.

A caregiver first has to drive wheelchair-bound Jackson to Channel Bowl. Then the bowling alley's staff and the caregiver have to help Jackson get into the alley because Channel Bowl doesn't have a ramp.

When she bowls, she uses a steel ramp like a mini-slide because her hands are too weak to hold a bowling ball. With the steel ramp, all she need do is push the ball down the slide and let gravity takes care of the rest of it. Three people surround her - the caregiver stabilizing the wheelchair, a person adjusting the slide and the other person holding the ball.

Many disabled residents such as Jackson said they enjoy bowling at Channel Bowl because the staff and owners are friendly. For the past 10 years, about 30 Juneau disabled residents have bowled there regularly to join a Special Olympics tournament in November in Anchorage.

But the place is not accessible for wheelchair users. There isn't a ramp from the parking lot to the alley. And there is no elevator to access the downstairs bathrooms.

On the eve of the 14th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, some residents talked with Dutch Knight, whose family owns Channel Bowl, and offered to raise funds or apply for grants to make the place wheelchair-friendly.

"According to the ADA, he is not obligated to make the place accessible because the building was like this when he bought it three years ago. But if he renovates the building, he needs to meet ADA standards," said Pamela Mueller-Guy, member of the city's ADA committee.

Becky Harrington, who is hard of hearing and active in making Juneau accessible to people with disabilities, asked whether Knight would donate one day's proceeds every month to build a ramp.

Knight didn't have a definite answer, but he said he and his staff are willing to do whatever they can to accommodate anyone who is mobility-challenged.

"We have donated our facility in the past, and we will do that in the future for nonprofits and fundraising efforts," Knight said.

Jackson, who grew impatient with the discussions, couldn't wait to start the game.

Her friend Brian Johnson moved the slide to the center of the lane. Her caregiver of the day, Debbe Jackson, pushed her behind the slide and pulled the brake. Another friend, Jason French, picked a yellow ball for her and held it.

Johnson and French, both deaf, discussed how to make a perfect strike in American Sign Language. Jackson sat between them, watching in amusement as their hands danced over her head.

A few minutes later, French and Johnson reached a consensus. French put the ball on top of the slide gently. Jackson pushed the ball. The ball rolled slowly but steadily on the lane. And the ball clattered through the pins.

It was a strike.

Johnson gave Jackson a high five. Her face beamed with a big smile.

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