Commission on Disabilities Holds Its Monthly Meeting

The Revere Commission on Disabilities held its regular monthly meeting last Tuesday evening, November 9.

Chair Ralph DeCicco, vice-chair Pauline Perno, and members Asmaa Aabou-Fouda, Mario Grimanis, Jason Barone, and Enza Goodwin were on hand for the meeting that was held via Zoom.

After approving the minutes of the previous meeting (which was Item #1 on their agenda), the commissioners tackled their agenda items. The commissioners’ discussions follows each agenda item:

Item #2: Updates/Next Steps from October Meeting:

The commission is sending a letter (the outline of which the commission had discussed at its October meeting) to various city departments and officials pertaining to matters of concern to Revere’s residents with disabilities.

Although Chairman DeCicco did not read the letter aloud at the meeting, each of the members were provided with a copy of it and they voted unanimously to send the letter.

Item #3: SEPAC October Recap & Scheduled November Events

• SEPAC October Recap: held its annual Basic Rights Meeting in October. It was an informative night. There were about 10 participants who got to learn about the IEP process and had the opportunity to ask their questions. Thank you, MASS PAC for hosting

• SEPAC November Events: Triangle Transition Programs hosted our November meeting. They are a disability service organization which partners with families to increase services. We looked forward to that meeting which took place on November 4th. This was a great opportunity to learn about offerings that might benefit your child and family.

Item #4: Mass. Office of Disability’s LevelUP to Equality Quarterly Webinar: Pathways to Employment – Disability Inclusion is for Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community on 10/27/21.

DeCicco, who attended the webinar meeting, explained to his fellow commissioners that the LevelUP program works in partnership with the Division of Apprenticeship Standards.

“The idea is that you learn a skill, get paid for it, and find a job,” said DeCicco.

Item #5: MBTA Bus Network Redesign Meeting on 10/27/21

This item drew a lot of discussion from the members.

“The MBTA is trying to combine bus routes, trying to get more people from the bus to the trains,” said DeCicco, who also attended this meeting. “But they are creating more transfers on buses which is cumbersome for people with disabilities.

“It is a question of whether there should be more frequency with more transfers, or less frequency but with more direct routes to the train,” said DeCicco. “I favor the latter.”

DeCicco’s fellow commissioners agreed with his assessment, noting the difficulty that would be faced by persons with disabilities if they have to transfer from more than one bus in order to get to a train station.

“There also is the issue of the T not having enough personnel to cover the routes and that the new drivers don’t know the routes and miss stops,” DeCicco added, another sentiment with which his fellow commissioners agreed.

Item #6: CODA (Commissions on Disabilities Alliance) – Monthly Zoom meeting on November 3, 2021

DeCicco, who also attended this meeting, told the commissioners of the plans of Revere and surrounding communities for projects in their communities that will enhance recreational opportunities for persons with disabilities.

“Revere is in the process of constructing a universally-designed, all-inclusive playground at Ambrose Park and another one is on the horizon at the new Suffolk Downs development,” said Decicco.

DeCicco also briefly discussed the role of the Architectural Access Board’s violation procedure when a development is being proposed.

He also mentioned that there is a court case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court that was bought by CVS pertaining to prescriptions policies. Disability advocates were against the lawsuit, which they said could have the effect of gutting section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

(Ed Note: Subsequent to the commission’s meeting last Tuesday, CVS announced this past Thursday that it was withdrawing its lawsuit and will work with disability advocates to resolve the issues that had generated the court action.)

DeCicco also brought to the commission’s attention a number of bills pending before the state legislature that are relevant to persons with disabilities.

Item #7: City Council had Public Hearing on Creating Ordinance to Establish Regulations of Sale and Use of Sustainable Food Ware And Packaging.

DeCicco told his colleagues that he had spoken against the proposed city ordinance — which aims to reduce the use of plastic bags and other items in the city — insofar as it includes disposable plastic straws.

“Plastic straws should not be banned because persons with disabilities need them, especially children on the autism spectrum, who cannot use metal or paper straws because of the texture,” said DeCicco, who noted that the initial bans on plastic straws in other states and communities subsequently had been repealed because of the adverse impact on persons with disabilities.

“Plastic straws should be offered without a person asking for them, because this would be discriminatory and embarrassing to people with disabilities,” DeCicco added.

“Banning straws would be a detriment to persons with disabilities,” DeCicco continued. “It’s the able-bodied people who are the ones creating the problem by throwing these straws all over the place.”

DeCicco noted that the City Council members who sponsored the ordinance have agreed to remove the ban on plastic straws.

Item #8: Commission on Disabilities Member Vacancy:

“The mayor’s officer is working on this. Some people have expressed interest and interviews are being set up,” said DeCicco.

Item #9: Commission Members’ Late Items:

DeCicco said that he attended a meeting with the Mass. Office of Disabilities in conjunction with the Attorney General’s office to ensure that open meetings of governmental bodies are accessible to all members of the public, including those with disabilities.

In a separate matter, commissioner Asmaa Aabou-Fouda told her colleagues of efforts being made to figure out how to find a public space for young children with special needs to learn their native language.

The commission concluded its meeting with its regular announcement (which was read aloud by vice-chair Perno) pertaining to its COVID-19 protocols:

“The Commission on Disabilities, due to Covid 19 and the safety of all residents, is trying to limit in-person appointments due to the unavailability and use at our present office location. Residents can speak to staff from our 311 Constituent Service Center Monday through Friday when you call our office at 781-286-8267. They will be able to answer most questions, but if they are unable to or if you would like a call back from our office, please ask to be transferred to the Disability Office’s voicemail and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

“As always, please let us know if you would like something discussed or brought up and added to our monthly meeting agenda. You can let us know if you would like to speak on any issue or concern. The Commission is here to help and assist all the disabled residents and families of Revere.”

The commission’s next meeting: (via Zoom) is scheduled for Tuesday, December 14, 2021 at 6:00 PM.

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