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Long treks to venues a worry

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In the past year, Lois Clayton of Centerville has developed arthritis, had a heart attack, undergone breast cancer surgery and is finishing up chemotherapy. The 67-year-old also has $2,000 worth of Olympic tickets that she might have to dump because it's too hard for her to walk the onerous distances to Olympic venues.

"I've waited all my life to go to the Olympics," she said. "I'm 67 years old, and now I want to go, but I'm frustrated. I would like to find out if there is handicapped parking that is closer than a mile away."

There is, of course, handicapped parking or shuttle drop-offs within a mile of all Olympic venues. Still, in a few cases the places where disabled persons must walk from are a quarter to half mile away. While that might not seem like much for some, it may as well be a mountain for people like Clayton.

"She has trouble moving around," said Gerald Simmerman, Clayton's brother. "Her feet just kill her."

The nearest disabled shuttle drop-off to the Salt Lake Ice Center (Delta Center), for instance, is three blocks, or nearly a half-mile away.

That means many people, like Clayton, won't likely attend figure skating or short-track speedskating at the center.

While SLOC has made provisions for disabled spectators by providing wheelchair access to stadiums and disabled seating, Clayton says they have forgotten about what she calls the "walking wounded" ? those people who aren't necessarily disabled but can't maneuver like able-bodied people either.

Turner Madden, a Washington, D.C., attorney who serves as SLOC expert on compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, admits there are problems with access to the Delta Center during the Games but says those difficulties are out of SLOC's hands.

Several blocks around the Delta Center will be secured by the U.S. Secret Service as part of Salt Lake Olympic Square. Inside this area, no motorized vehicles are allowed, making it impossible to bring disabled spectators nearer to the venue.

"It's one of those things," Madden said. "I would suggest that if people have trouble walking that they should rent a wheelchair or bring a wheelchair with them."

Once spectators arrive at the Delta Center or Olympic Medals Plaza, workers can store the wheelchair, Madden said.

"There's really nothing else we can do," he said. For venues outside Olympic Square access is much closer, although there are some trouble spots. At Park City Mountain Resort, for instance, disabled spectators will have to walk about a quarter mile, and some of the route is on a snow path.

Venues that have on-site parking will have stalls designated for the handicapped. Park-and-ride lots will have similarly designated stalls, Madden said.

Despite the efforts, some like Clayton, who don't want to use wheelchairs, are left in a bind.

"I applaud what they've done, but what they've forgotten is the walking wounded," she said. "We're not the severely disabled, but we're wounded."

E-mail: bsnyder@desnews.com