By Emmanuel Vincent
On August 28, the city’s Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator, the Somerville Commission for Disabilities, conducted a public meeting at City Hall. The meeting addressed the needs of the residents who are disabled.
Ironically, it was the same day as the 50-year anniversary for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. King was an advocate of equality, wanting everyone to have the opportunity to enjoy the ultimate experience of living in this country. This meeting was a reflection of Dr. King’s vision, as they looked at ways that they could better accommodate those who have disabilities.
One of the speakers, Emmanuel Andrade, the architect designer of the ADA, shared vital information with those in attendance. Prior to the meeting, he performed an inspection of buildings, parks and schools in the city, and then he came back and shared his data with the audience that evening.
Municipal Buildings, including the City Hall Annex, Recreation Building and DPW Building were deemed inaccessible. Other buildings that were considered being inaccessible or only partially accessible included the Police Station and the Central Fire Headquarters. The most accessible structure is the Tufts Administration building, according to Andrade.
It was clearly suggested that much change must be made, considering that these buildings that are labeled as inaccessible are important, since they serve as resources for people’s safety and wellbeing.
Overall, there seemed to be good feedback at the meeting. “I thought the meeting went well,” said Betsy Allen, Executive Director and ADA Coordinator. “We, in this administration, are working very hard everyday to create access for all in this city. But as I said during the meeting, this is a complex issue with a lot of moving parts that requires a well sought out solution.” She also shared her thoughts on how people can help with better accommodating those who suffer from a disability. “Individuals can stay involved and engaged, and continue to shine a spotlight on their plight and of those of other disabled individuals in the community.” Essentially, it is going to take a collective effort to see that this is done.
There is no follow-up meeting announced yet as it is still being finalized. The target date is the last week of September. It will either take place at City Hall or the Tufts Administration Building.