Disabilities Commission Takes Up a Wide Range of Issues

The Revere Commission on Disabilities held its regular monthly meeting last Tuesday, February 13, via Zoom. On hand for the session were chair Ralph DeCicco, vice-chair Pauline Perno, Mario Grimanis, Ellie Pagan-Vargas, and Jasone Barone-Cichocki. Perno provided updates for the members. She mentioned that the City of Somerville coordinates snow shoveling volunteers between the Somerville youth services and the Somerville Council on Aging, which also encompasses those with disabilities. She suggested that a program in Revere could go beyond snow-shoveling to include other services, such as spring clean-up. DeCicco said that discussions are being held with appropriate Revere city officials, including City Councillor Bob Haas, to bring a similar community service program to Revere, though he mentioned that the Revere High Junior ROTC program is filling that need to some degree. DeCicco added that a program pairing youth with senior citizens would have the added benefit of fostering interaction between young people and senior members of the community. DeCicco said he attended the recent CODA (Commissions on Disabilities Alliance) monthly Zoom meeting that was held on February 7 and made note of the highlights of the meeting: — The Disability Policy Consortium (DPC) mentioned that the governor’s proposed budget makes cuts in the line item for the much-needed Personal Care Attendant (PCA) program. “Funding needs to be increased, not cut,” said DeCicco, who said that the CODA members were against the cutbacks. “If you are someone who is unable to advocate for yourself, you’re really in trouble. That’s a real problem for a lot of seniors, persons with disabilities, and veterans,” said DeCicco, sentiments that were echoed by other members of the commission. — Some CODA commissioners discussed accessibility at town meetings, suggesting that the main way to achieve this is for all municipal meetings to have a hybrid/remote component. — CODA members from various cities and towns had questions regarding interactions and overlaps with special education issues and their local SEPAC (special education parent advisory councils) in their communities. DeCicco said he informed the CODA members of the availability of the Mass. Federation for Children with Special Needs organization (which made a presentation to the Revere commissioners last month) to assist parents of children with special needs. — CODA members held what DeCicco termed “a great discussion” on the interpretation of M.G.L. chapter 40, section 8J, regarding the establishment and makeup of members on a local disability commission. DeCicco said the statute provides that a majority of members of a local commission must be disabled or live with a person who is disabled. Regarding the local SEPAC, DeCicco mentioned that the Revere SEPAC is in a transition to new board members at the present. He said that there is a new president, Julie Brown, and there will be a meeting of the group that is scheduled for Thursday, February 29, at 6:00 at Revere High School in the School Committee Room. Vice-chair Perno helmed a brief discussion on the issue of “Silent Disabilities” and the impact that ignorance has, “Just because someone doesn’t look to be ‘disabled,’ it does not mean that they are not disabled,” said Perno. “No one should jump to conclusions based on their perceptions. We all need to be kind.” DeCicco provided the good news that the city has been awarded a Mass. Department of Health Mini-Grant, for which the Commission on Disabilities had submitted an application in conjunction with the Revere Department of Public Health, to create a survey for Revere residents, specifically reaching out to seniors, people/families with disabilities, and those with racial and financial injustices regarding accessibility to the George V. Colella Community Center. The community center is located within the Garfield School and is operated by the Revere Parks & Recreation Department. The facility features a swimming pool and many more programs and activities. “If you are a Revere resident, we need your help by filling out this survey in your preferred language to understand your needs. Your feedback will matter to us,” said DeCicco. Links to the survey are as follows: English Survey Link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QRGH3MJ  Spanish Survey Link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Q3YC356  Portuguese Survey Link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QTTT5XB  Arabic Survey Link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QBL2WHD DeCicco mentioned that electric scooters and bicycles are not allowed on sidewalks per state law. In addition, the city has a similar ordinance. “No one, not just those with disabilities, should have to be in fear of being seriously hurt by persons who are violating the law,” said DeCicco. DeCicco also discussed the progress of a bill before the legislature that would make trails in state properties accessible for all. He urged his fellow members to contact members of the City Council to consider adopting a resolution in favor of the legislation. Perno concluded the meeting with the 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 answer most questions, but if they are unable to or if you want to speak to our department directly or schedule an appointment, please ask to be transferred to the Disability office. If we are unavailable, please leave a detailed message and someone will get back to you as soon as possible. “As always, please tell us if you want something discussed or 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 next Meeting: (Via Zoom) is set for Tuesday, March 12, at 6 p.m.

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