Disability Advisory Committees Help Towns Change for the Better

by Bill Norman on July 1, 2007 - 1:00pm

QUEST Vol. 14, No. 4

Three years ago, Brian Moore, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, prepared and presented a proposal on his local access TV station, urging the town of Holliston, Mass., to create a disability advisory committee. His idea caught on and now, Brian, 22, and his father, James have been appointed co-chairs of the newly formed group.

Brian was motivated in part by his experiences in seventh grade. When he showed up at school in his wheelchair, he found that most of his classes were on the second floor. In Holliston, whose origins date to 1724, it wasn’t uncommon to find buildings, including schools, without elevators.

Now, the civic-minded Moores have helped bring about long-needed changes. Along with other Disability Advisory Committee members, they talked with Holliston’s business and government communities to find ways of renovating existing buildings, then made recommendations to the elected officials with the authority and pocketbook to make ADA-related fixes.

“The town has done a great job bringing public buildings into ADA compliance,” Brian says. Schools now have elevators, accessible bathrooms and classrooms that can accommodate wheelchairs.

Unfortunately, James says it’s not going as well with retail businesses in the center of town: “If a business remodels and spends more than 25 percent of the building’s value, they must bring the building into full ADA compliance.

"What many businesses do is perform a series of projects over time. That way, the ADA threshold is never hit, and they don’t have to spend money on ADA bathrooms and ramps. This is very frustrating for us as the entire center of town has new retail businesses that Brian can’t access.”

But the father/son team is chipping away at those barriers. Through the committee, they’re working with the town to completely reconstruct crosswalks, sidewalks, curb cuts and parking spaces for people with disabilities.

Retail businesses are on the “to-do” list.

Brian Moore
NASCAR fan Brian Moore got a pleasant surprise at the track: newly accessible crew pits.

Brian is taking college-level courses at two schools, but when he isn’t studying or working on ADA issues, he’s focused on the Red Sox, Patriots and NASCAR.

In recent years he’s seen ADA-friendly changes in sports venues, including the addition of elevated seating for wheelchair users in stadiums. Now, when frenzied fans leap to their feet in excitement, they don’t block the views of the fans seated in wheelchairs.

A high point in accessibility occurred this year at a NASCAR competition at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. The track had recently acquired “stretch” golf carts with wheelchair access ramps. For the first time, a jubilant Brian got a lift down into the pits where race team crews get their cars ready, and visited one-on-one with some of his racing heroes.

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