Richard Hutchisson is assisted onto the wheelchair lift of a CATC bus as he arrives home following an appointment Oct. 16. A Casper citizen hopes to kickstart the creation of a Mayor's Council for People with Disabilities to facilitate communication with the Casper City Council.

Casper citizens with disabilities need a better way to share their viewpoints with the city’s leaders, says one local advocate for people with disabilities.

Leann Rogers has asked city staff to support the creation of a Mayor’s Council for People with Disabilities, according to a recent memo from City Manager Carter Napier to the City Council.

City Council members are slated to discuss the idea at Tuesday’s work session.

If the idea is approved, Napier said Mayor Charlie Powell would appoint a group of citizens that would periodically come to the Council with updates and recommendations about how to improve life for the city’s disabled residents.

The mayor’s council could offer suggestions on everything from employment and transportation matters to raising educational awareness about disabilities.

“I certainly think it’s a good idea to provide a voice to the disabled in our community in a structured and formal way,” Napier said.

The city manager said staff researched the idea and found that a similar idea was implemented in Cheyenne.

“It sure seems like other communities have been successful with it, so I would be comfortable recommending it,” he said.

Rogers was particularly concerned with the need for people with disabilities to have better access to public buildings and areas, Napier said.

Citizens with disabilities have appeared before the Council on several occasions in the last year to discuss the various challenges they face within the Casper community.

Andrea Whisler, who uses a wheelchair, said in June that many drivers harass the handicapped.

“We’ve got some kind of little game going on with who can scare people in the chairs the best and we’ve got pickups and cars who like to come right up on our backs,” she said.

The drivers then gun their engines or honk, and one got so close he clipped a back wheel on her chair, said Whisler, who added that she was tired of being mistreated in her own hometown.

Groups of citizens with disabilities also addressed the Council on multiple occasions regarding the important role that the Casper Area Transportation Coalition plays in their lives.

The coalition, which offers low-cost bus rides, partially depends on city funding. The Council considered cutting the organization’s funding last year, but ultimately decided against it after many residents spoke out.

Even with continued funding from the city, the coalition is still facing many challenges, as Casper’s population is aging.

In fiscal year 2017, the organization provided roughly 46,000 rides on its door-to-door buses and 160,000 rides on its fixed routes, according to the coalition’s executive director Marge Cole. That number continues to grow as the baby-boom generation ages.

“They need more care as they get older,” Cole previously said. “They need more physical therapy and doctor appointments.”

Casper resident Lacey Sutphin, who lost her vision in 2013, previously told the Star-Tribune that she relied on CATC’s services to maintain her independence.

“Without CATC, life would be harder for a lot of us,” Sutphin said. “I don’t know what some of us would do without it.”

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Katie King joined the Star-Tribune in 2017 and primarily covers issues related to local government. She previously worked as a crime reporter in the British Virgin Islands. Originally from Virginia, Katie is a graduate of James Madison University.

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