Hagerstown man in wheelchair wants better access at U.S. post office

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HAGERSTOWN, Ind. – We are learning more about why a United States post office in Indiana is not handicap accessible. Ed Bell uses a wheelchair and wants better access to the post office in Hagerstown.

Bell was paralyzed at 37 years old after someone shot him. He’s still very independent on his farm even in a wheelchair. But, something as simple as dropping off a package is challenging.

“I have not been in my post office really in 37 years,” he said.

If he wants to send a package, he must wait for another customer to come out so they can get a postal worker for him. That’s because there is no ramp in the front, only steps at the federal building.

“It is paid for with public funds and yet it does not have full access to the public,” said Bell.

At the time, USPS told us the building is on the National Register of Historic Places and could not be changed. The National Park Service said the building is not on the list.

“It just validated it was an excuse,” said Bell.

The postal service also said the facility is exempt from accessibility upgrades required by the Architectural Barriers Act, ABA, because it was built before the law passed in 1968.

Dave Yanchulis is with the US Access Board. That agency helps enforce ABA. According to him, some buildings can make voluntary changes but ABA cannot form them. He said there’s another agency that actually built a ramp at the front entrance of their federal building in Tennessee this year, even though it is historic and built before 1968.

So, Bell wonders why changes cannot come to Hagerstown too.

The US Access Board has received several complaints on post offices in Indiana. In many of those cases, the group lacked jurisdiction over the facility because they were built before 1968.

We did get a response from the postal service. A spokesperson said they still feel making changes to the building would violate a federal law and they cannot speak of actions by another agency.

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