Mark Carfi knows the inconvenience of sidewalks for people in wheelchairs.
“It’s a big thing to have curb cuts on major roads for wheelchairs to go up and down sidewalks,” said Carfi, 41, who uses a wheelchair. “It’s very helpful. By having the curb cuts, I can go places easier.”
Carfi is a member of Fountain Valley Advisory Committee for the Disabled, which since 1977 has been instrumental in improving the lives of the disabled.
Among their endeavors, the City Council-appointed committee has surveyed areas of the city that are inaccessible and sought to have them fixed.
Because the committee is dedicated to bringing issues, concerns and rights of disabled people to the forefront, its members were recently given a “Silver Bowl” award by the Volunteer Center of Orange County West. The award is given for outstanding adult volunteer group.
“It gives a great deal of encouragement to those on the committee to have their voluntary efforts recognized,” said Noel Bell, who also uses a wheelchair and is an original member of the panel. “It also helps to publicize the value of the committee.
The committee is made up of 12 volunteers; currently there are two vacancies on the board.
During the years, the committee has developed numerous programs and activities, including putting on six dances a year for the disabled and identifying where disabled residents live in the city so they can be assisted in case of disaster.
More than 20 years ago, Bell brought the needs of the disabled to the attention of the city. Bell, 64, said in those days, he always had difficulty finding a place to park his car.
“All the parking spaces were too narrow,” said Bell, whose wife, Anne, also uses a wheelchair. “This problem occurred whether we wanted to get a hot dog, go to the grocery shopping or do any kind of shopping. It occurred everywhere we went.”
Noel Bell made Councilman George B. Scott aware of improvements that would help disabled people, and Scott said he was inspired to make changes because “in those days, there were no requirements (for handicapped access) and that amazed me.”
In 1970, the city’s first handicapped parking spaces were installed at a shopping center at Magnolia and Warner avenues and sidewalk cuts were added.