Just a Thought
By Michelle Sanford Staff Reporter/Columnist
July 06, 2012
It's funny how we don't think too much about things until they directly affect us. I guess I never thought too much about the term "handicapped accessible" until it directly affected me; well, not me personally, but my father. Throughout the past few years, his mobility has continued to decline and he now relies on various means of assistance to get around.
When he goes to restaurants, the layout of the eatery must first be determined to make certain it's accessible for him. A recent trip from Logan Airport that I took with him required detailed planning on getting him to and from his destination safely, as well as how he would spend time in the airport. Until his life began revolving around different obstacles, these things never really crossed my mind all that much.
The terms handicapped accessible or ADA compliant continue to come up in discussions at many board and committee meetings because so many of the older municipal buildings including libraries, town halls, and police departments are not accessible to everyone. Upton's Town Clerk has stated due to the Town Hall's inaccessibility, she has never been able to serve a disabled person in her office; that is astounding to me.
I guess one initial explanation for this could be when some of these now historical buildings were constructed, the average life expectancy of an individual was probably around 50 years old and therefore disabilities may not have been on the minds of the building's designers. However, now it is estimated that nearly 50 million Americans suffer from some type of disability.
Town officials understand the urgency of accessibility. Sadly, the cost to make buildings compliant can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars; funds that communities just don't have available these days. However, that hasn't stopped some groups. Upton's Town Hall Renovation Committee is preparing for a major renovation to make the building compliant. Mendon's Library Trustees are seeking a debt exclusion to purchase and eventually renovate St. Michael's Parish into a new accessible library. And the Friends of the Mendon Police Department are building a new police headquarters through donations and sheer determination.
Those with disabilities don't want to necessarily climb Mount Everest or run a marathon; however, I certainly commend those who have. Those with disabilities want to live their day-to-day lives like the rest of us. They want to be able to pay a bill or register to vote at the Town Hall or enter the local library to enjoy the simple pleasure of checking out a book.
My hats off to those individuals who are striving to give people like my father accessibility and independence; who are working to give those living with disabilities one less hurdle to clear.