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Transfer platform opens new doors for disabled

CLARKSVILLE - Imagine a perfect fall day boating or fishing on one of Arkansas’ magnificent lakes or rivers. Now imagine being a person with a disability who uses a wheelchair. How could you enjoy boating or fishing when you can’t get into the boat? The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission recently addressed that issue by constructing a wheelchair transfer platform on Lake Dardanelle.

For several years, federal law has mandated that many public facilities be handicapped accessible. According to the AGFC’s chief of engineering Dale Gunter, recreational facilities have not progressed that far. “Rather than wait and be told by law to do this and also bear the added cost of retrofitting existing facilities, we’ve taken a pro-active approach and attempted to meet all our customer's needs, including those with mobility limitations, on all new projects,” Gunter explained.

“In addition to our experience with the Americans with Disabilities Act, we have also communicated with Jimmy Ashley and Tony LeQuieu with the Arkansas Disabled Sportsmen's Association to get their input so we don't overdo or under do our attempts to meet their needs,” Gunter added.

The $27,750 platform sits on the side of the boat ramp at the Spadra U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park on the lake. Its height allows wheelchair occupants an easy access point for trailer mounted party barges. Those people who do not have the use of their hands can also open the gates.

There are three transfer handles located on each post for a hand held support, according regional maintenance coordinator Jim Price. “All boats sit at different heights on their trailers. The platform allows any boat owner the ability to load a wheelchair occupant if desired,” he said.

One user of the new platform was singing the praises of both the AGFC and Corps of Engineers. Sydney Case, chairman of the Arkansas Independent Living Council, said the new platform was a tremendous benefit to those Arkansans living with disabilities. “It has been over 25 years since I have had the pleasure of riding on a boat. You can only imagine my elation the day I was able to ride on a boat once again. The time I spend on the boat granted me the opportunity to enjoy the water with good friends,” Case said.

The park is located south of Clarksville on Arkansas Highway 103 at the Spadra Use Area on Lake Dardanelle.





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