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Rapid City organizations partner to provide information about accessibility

Kelsey Stine
Accessible Black Hills
Kelsey Stine is the founder of Accessible Black Hills.

Two Rapid City organizations have partnered to provide information to Black Hills tourists about the accessibility of businesses and other attractions.

The organizations Visit Rapid City and Accessible Black Hills have been working with each other to share knowledge about the accessibility of locations in the area. They gained the information from in-person and self-reported surveys.

Visit Rapid City sent surveys to local businesses. According to Visit Rapid City’s Marketing Manager Cody Wiseman, over 50 locations completed a self-assessment.

For businesses that didn’t complete the survey, Accessible Black Hills will reach out and send volunteers to conduct in-person assessments by making observations and taking pictures.

According to Accessible Black Hills founder Kelsey Stine, the organization is also assessing locations that don’t fall into standard business categories, such as tourist attractions, parks and trails, and other public areas that attract visitors.

The information gathered from surveys will be used to highlight locations that have accessible design, but not to shame those that don’t, according to Stine and Wiseman.

“We never wanted this to be any kind of a negative thing,” Wiseman said. “We're not trying to shed light on things that people don't have. We only wanted to focus on the things that people do have.”

The survey from Visit Rapid City and the in-person assessment by Accessible Black Hills aim to take a deeper look at accessibility, beyond the minimum requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to Stine, her organization looks for obvious elements, such as ramps and entryways, while also assessing things like maneuverable bathrooms and readable menus.

“Just saying it’s 'ADA' doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will be able to use it,” Stine said.

Visit Rapid City is using the information it received from the surveys to update its accessibility information on its website. As part of the partnership, it’s also sharing information with Accessible Black Hills.

According to Stine, her organization is working on making a searchable website to display all of the information it's gathered. It will also provide the information on its website for other outlets to use, such as visitor centers.

"The more locations people can find this, the better," Stine said.

After finishing its website, Accessible Black Hills’ next step is to provide grants and other opportunities for businesses that aren’t accessible to make the changes they need.

As Accessible Black Hills expands its reach to other areas in the Black Hills, Stine said it will try to replicate the method it pioneered with Visit Rapid City.

“They helped create this process, and now we can duplicate that with other chambers or marketing destination places,” Stine said.

Stine said she hopes to grow the organization statewide in 2023. She also plans to use the knowledge the organization has gained to help people in other states work on similar projects.

Both Wiseman and Stine currently serve on Rapid City’s Disability Awareness and Accessibility Committee.

Andrew Kronaizl is a senior at Augustana University. He is from Vermillion, SD, and is based out of SDPB's Sioux Falls studio.
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