The Revere Commission on Disabilities (CoD) held its regular monthly meeting last Tuesday evening, September 12, via Zoom. On hand for the meeting were chair Ralph DeCicco, vice-chair Pauline Perno, Jason Barone-Cichocki, Ellie Pagan-Vargas, and Mario Grimanis.
The guest speaker for the month was Colleen Flanagan, the Engagement and Outreach Specialist from the City of Boston Mayor’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities.
Flanagan said that a new initiative in Boston, known as Boston Brakes, aims to raise awareness among automobile operators and others about the unique needs of pedestrians with disabilities.
“It is important to respect everyone’s pace and speed,” said Flanagan. She showed a one-minute video that aims to educate bicycle and automobile operators about the need to operate safely in the city and be aware of those “who move at different speeds.”
Flanagan said that there are 80,000 Boston residents — about 12 percent of the population — with disabilities. She noted that the city’s changing infrastructure, including outdoor dining, bicycle lanes, and electric auto charging stations to meet sustainability goals are presenting new challenges for persons with disabilities.
Many of the educational videos Flanagan presented were directed at operators of bicycles and scooters in order to make them aware that they must yield to persons, especially those with disabilities, on the city’s streets.
It was noted that complaints about specific areas where there are safety problems for persons with disabilities should be directed to the 311 line both in Revere and in Boston.
Members of the commission agreed that education for motor vehicle operators and bicyclists about the scope of the laws pertaining to pedestrians with disabilities should be mandatory.
After Flanagan’s presentation and questions from the members, DeCicco updated the commissioners on the motions that were made and approved at the August CoD meeting to send letters regarding Bills S.446 & H.7690 (the bills are identical) to support “An Act Expanding Access To Trails For People of All Abilities.” These were letters sent by the CoD expressing the commissioners’ support for “Unpaved Trails for All” in the two bills that will be included in the package that will be submitted to the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources at the State House.
The commission also sent letters directly to the Chair and Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.
Letters also were sent to the local State House delegation, Representative Jeffrey Turco, Representative Jessica Giannino, and Senator Lydia Edwards, to ask for their support of the two bills. All three legislators responded that they would be supporting the two bills.
In addition, a letter was sent by the CoD to the City Council President Pro Tempore via the City Clerk’s office to support, sign, and send a resolution in support of the legislation. However, DeCicco reported that the City Council, through the City Clerk’s office, responded that this “was out of their realm” because there are no trails in the city.
DeCicco reported on the Commissions on Disabilities Alliance (CODA) monthly Zoom meeting that he attended on Wednesday, September 6. Among the issues discussed at the meeting were the lack of availability for the safe storage of wheelchairs and other equipment that are brought to beaches and similar facilities by persons with disabilities.
CODA also noted that the guidelines set forth by the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board (AAB) often are more rigorous than those established by the federal American with Disabilities Act (ADA). For example, the ADA deems surfaces consisting of wood chips to be “accessible,” but the AAB does not, and in Massachusetts, the AAB’s guidelines are what prevail.
DeCicco noted that October is National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month and it will be observed by the State Commission on Disabilities on October 5 at 11:00 AM in the Hall of Flags at the State House. Perno suggested that the commission should contact the city to acknowledge the month’s observance and DeCicco said he would do so.
Perno concluded the meeting by reading the usual monthly announcement:
“The Commission on Disabilities office number is 781-286-8267. Residents can also call Revere 311 directly and speak to their staff Monday through Friday. 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 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 then adjourned until its next meeting (via Zoom) in October.