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ARLINGTON -- A team from the Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is at Arlington National Cemetery to assess the accessibility of certain sections of the 150-year-old facility for disabled visitors.

The cemetery asked the district to study areas that are heavily visited to determine if they meet current Americans With Disabilities Act standards.

'We'll take a look at each site and literally travel the path designed for those in wheelchairs or those with some other impairment and see how they function,' said Duane Robinson, Norfolk District project manager.

With detailed measurements and knowledge of current codes and standards, the team will issue a report with recommendations on how the nation's cemetery can ensure its highly visited sites allow adequate access for the disabled community, something team member Alice Pool, a Norfolk District landscape architect, believes is a fundamental right.

'Access is really key to what all [those buried] at Arlington Cemetery have sacrificed for, which is freedom,' Pool said.

Cemetery officials realize paths cannot be built to each individual gravesite; however they do want to make sure they reduce possible barriers in common travel areas.

'We need to look out and make it as smooth as we can for people in wheelchairs or pushing baby carriages or [those who] have other accessibility needs and challenges,' said Kent Carson, Arlington National Cemetery's acting chief of engineers.

For Gary Syzmanski, a Norfolk District civil engineer who is disabled, being a part of this study is a way for him to make a positive impact on a community of people with disabilities who, before 1990, were not considered when builders designed a facility.

'Through my efforts in using a (wheel)chair up here and going through everything, I think it is going to help make the improvements that are practical and that give people that same experience,' Syzmanski said.

The team expects to have a report back to the cemetery by mid-summer. The cemetery will then request funding to address the identified areas of concern.

'I think we are going to make some really great improvements -- that's going to bring accessibility to a higher level to Arlington Cemetery,' Szymanski said.

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