Local man with cerebral palsy seeks to make Athens more accessible

Noah Trembly at his home in Athens last week.

One little step keeps Noah Trembly from giving a store his business.

Trembly, 38, works as a technology and accessibility consultant at Ohio University. He's CEO of Noah Trembly Enterprises, his own consulting and motivational speaking company. He works with the Athens City Commission on Disabilities and is about to launch a three-year sidewalk project.

Trembly also has severe cerebral palsy. He uses a wheelchair to roll around town - but that rolling stops at the doorsteps of many Court Street businesses, he said.

Just one step from the sidewalk up into the store prevents him, and many other people living with disabilities, from entering.

He said he's seen businesses make renovations in recent years, and he isn't sure how they got away with a lack of accommodations to allow people with disabilities to come in and easily navigate their buildings.

It isn't just businesses, though, Trembly said.

Athens as a whole could improve a lot when it comes to these accommodations, he said. He works with the Disabilities Commission and OU to help improve accommodations for Athens' disabled residents.

A lack of accommodations is particularly problematic in the winter; uptown's bricks thaw slower than asphalt and concrete, so when sidewalks and roads are slick, bricked walkways are guaranteed to be a problem.

OU stockpiled 500 tons of road salt for this winter, said Steve Wood, executive director of Facilities Management. That's twice as much as last year - but it can't make slippery hills less steep or provide more transportation for people who are disabled.

Trembly said he isn't able to get out much in the winter, but when he does, he finds sidewalks are not in the best of shape.

He intends to change that.

He's beginning a project with the help of Athens City Council member Steve Patterson, chair of the Disabilities Commission, that will involve assessing the city's sidewalks. Patterson is also running for mayor this year.

Trembly has set the span of the project at three years; it will cover a thorough assessment of all city sidewalks and examine sidewalk-related city ordinances. The last step will be to look into local laws that will help improve the walkways.

For Trembly, this is the latest plan in a history of advocacy efforts.

He uses an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device to communicate. Last year, he used that device to deliver a speech in Orlando as part of the 2014 Edwin and Esther Prentke Augmentative and Alternative Communication Distinguished Lecture Series.

The Prentke Romich Company (PRC), which fostered the relationship between Trembly and OU, said in a press release that Trembly uses his AAC device to assist with education and outreach as a PRC ambassador.

PRC president David L. Moffatt called him an inspiration to many.

Trembly is currently in need of help to make his own transportation a little easier. His GoFundMe online fundraiser, "Keep Noah Rolling," is trying to raise $60,000 so Trembly can purchase a fully accommodation-outfitted van from a supplier in Groveport, Ohio.

The van Trembly has now was purchased with the help of a grant, but it's in need of replacement. Trembly said there aren't a lot of options to fund the van, so he's turned to his neighbors for assistance.

"Keep Noah Rolling" is offering T-shirts as a thank-you for donating. Donations can be made through GoFundMe; at OU's CSD department office; at Tony's Tavern; and online, at LifeDream International's website, where donations are being accepted for both a van and for OU tuition.

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