The Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne was rewarded with $200,000 by the Anthony Wayne Services or AWS Foundation board to support the downtown riverfront development project, which aims in making riverfront amenities and activities accessible to people with disabilities.
"Today we are pleased to provide additional support that will help to ensure an accessible riverfront that is welcoming and engaging to visitors of all abilities and we hope the accessibility features and amenities will become a model for other communities to adopt," said Patti Hays, interim CEO of the AWS Foundation.
The AWS Foundation strives "to help children and adults with enduring intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities live as independently as possible, be included in the community and function at their highest potential," according to its website.
Lilly Endowment will contribute $100,000 on top of the $200,000 awarded. A $3 million commitment to the downtown riverfront project has been made by the Community Foundation, of which $1 million of that commitment will come from matching funds from Lilly Endowment.
"The funds awarded will be used in two parts," said David Bennett, executive director of the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne. "We think about half of it will be used in the planning process to make sure that everything (the architects and engineers) plan and develop will be welcoming to the disabled community," he said. "That could mean ramps, it could mean signage with Braille on it or signage that's even audio."
The other half of the money will go toward any additional expenses that might be identified as the process moves forward, such as the purchase of special docks, lifts or ramps. Bennett said while he's not sure exactly what those expenses will be, they will be related to accessibility.
Don Steininger, AWS Foundation board president, said "the foundation hopes riverfront development will go beyond the standards set forth by the Americans With Disabilities Act."
"We all know what ADA means. It is a minimum standard of which you have to provide for disabilities," he said. "It is our intention to do a lot more than that."
Steininger said "the AWS Foundation estimates there are at least 45,000 people in northeast Indiana with some form of a disability. Projects such as the riverfront must take into account the broad spectrum of disabilities when determining accessibility."