Monday, March 16, 2009

Uh-oh: Governor’s stimulus project planning might exclude accessibility

Salem Depot HP Ramp 023

A problem’s come up in the federal stimulus that we're keeping our eyes on:  Advocates Say State Trampling Rights of Disabled in Rush For Stimulus Funds.

The governor's task forces on federal stimulus funding, which helped identify billions of dollars last month in "shovel-ready projects" in Massachusetts, has angered advocates for the disabled by suggesting that the state forego reviews of the need for handicapped accessibility to prevent construction delays.

Activists are threatening legal action and planning to protest a Monday meeting of the state Architectural Access Board. They fear that if the state overlooks accessibility in its rush to put federal stimulus funds to use, it will never find the money to make the buildings accessible.

"For the governor to put a document out that says the first thing we're going to do is abrogate the rights of people with disabilities in order to spend the stimulus money is a real slap in the face to people with disabilities who have fought for civil rights for so many years," said Bill Allan, executive director of the Disability Policy Consortium, a Boston-based organization of volunteer disability rights activists.

We haven’t discussed this as a group at the Commission on Disabilities, but I have discussed this in email with several members.  There are a number of state projects in Salem that this could affect, such as the courthouse and the new train station garage.

Governor Patrick was here recently for a town hall meeting.  If this news had only come up then, I would have commented.

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