Commission on Disabilities Members Disappointed With Baker’s Veto of Funding To Enable Remote Meetings

The Revere Commission on Disabilities (COD) held its regular monthly meeting last Tuesday, September 13;

On hand for the meeting were chairperson Ralph DeCicco and members Robert Brown, Mario Grimanis, Asmaa Abou-Fouda, and Jason Barone, as well as Revere High student member Sophia Marmoucha.

After approving the minutes from the meeting of August 9, the commissioners delved into its agenda.

The meeting began with an update from DeCicco regarding the members’ research and information about obtaining comfort dogs from agencies such as the Red Cross. DeCicco said he got in touch with an agency (Lydia’s Comfort Dogs) that works through the Red Cross. DeCicco said the commission is in the process of figuring out the protocols for utilizing the service to benefit Revere residents.

The commission criticized Gov. Charlie Baker for his recent veto of a line item in the state budget that would have provided state grants for municipalities to conduct hybrid/remote meetings of municipal boards.

“This (Baker’s veto) was a big letdown,” said DeCicco, “because that would have been moving us in the right direction for allowing everyone to have access to public meetings.”

DeCicco noted that the ability for municipal boards to conduct remote meetings would benefit not only persons with disabilities, but also all citizens in a community for whom attending a meeting in-person is difficult.

Grimanis also expressed frustration and disappointment with Baker’s veto.

“Gov. Baker just seems to be out of it on this subject,” said Grimanis, who noted that his experience with the governor’s office on other issues has not been a positive one. “This just seems very counter-intuitive.”

Brown noted that the Revere Special Education Parents Advisory Council (SEPAC) will be hosting an event entitled “Join the Conversation” this evening (Thursday, Sept. 22) at 6:00 at the Revere High Learning Commons. The purpose of the meeting is to encourage parents of children with disabilities to become involved with SEPAC.

DeCicco reported on the monthly Zoom meeting of the area Commissions on Disabilities Alliance (CODA) that was held on September 7.

He said there was a discussion and questions regarding whether there is any governance under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for taxicab companies that discriminate with regard to service animals being allowed in vehicles. DeCicco said that this issue is covered under Title III and that it is illegal for cab companies to discriminate against persons with service animals.

DeCicco said it was noted at the meeting that Fall River has an issue with a cab company in its city that operates 24/7 for the general public,  but only provides service for people in wheelchairs until 5 PM.

“This is discriminatory if a cab company has the equipment and manpower to be able to provide this service 24 hours,” said DeCicco.

Grimanis mentioned the ongoing issues with the scheduling shortcomings of the MBTA’s The Ride program, which offers an affordable alternative to private taxi companies, that continue to persist.

DeCicco said that the town of Concord informed the CODA members that it has purchased adaptive (three wheel) bicycles that are a part of Concord’s  rideshare program and that are available for rent for persons with disabilities.

DeCicco said there was a discussion regarding how some cities and towns either have difficulty finding anyone to serve on their disability commissions or, if they do have people willing to step forward, some cities and towns are not confirming candidates in a timely manner.

DeCicco also mentioned that the Disability Policy Consortium (DPC) will be hosting a virtual Legislative Advocacy Workshop on September 29. Anyone interested can go to their website which is www.dpcma.org

DeCicco once again announced that the Revere Commission on Disabilities still is seeking to fill a vacancy of its own. Candidates can go to the city’s website for further information.

Under new business, Grimanis and DeCicco briefly highlighted the customer service difficulties being faced by Social Security offices in Massachusetts primarily because of a shortage of staff. Grimanis noted that Social Security lost about a quarter of its employees in the wake of the pandemic.

DeCicco concluded the meeting by reading aloud the commission’s monthly reminder to residents:

“The Commission on Disabilities Office is working remotely. 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 department, please ask to be transferred to the Disability offices 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 voted to adjourn until its next meeting on Tuesday, October 11, at 6:00 PM.

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