Friday, May 28, 2010

Starting a 4th year of blogging

Frisky on my mom's scooter

I have recently completed 3 years of blogging.  By tradition, I have a picture of my mom, Jeannette.  This year, I found pictures of her cat Frisky, her most recent and last pet.  She is minding Mom’s motorized scooter;  Scooters like hers are now commonplace but this was really something in her day that helped her independence.

Another Frisky picture:

Frisky and David M.

She’s with me, her “daddy”.  I could not leave the house without her at my ankles. (“DADDY GOES!  DO NOT WANT!”) When I did leave, she would tell Mom endlessly and at length in many words, “PAPA GONE!”  (And then, coming home, she would see me—and totally ignore me!  “NOT TALKING!  YOU WENT OUT”)  It’s been 16 years and I miss them both.

My past year’s blogging saw an old Salem blogging duo go away, and a new one emergeA dear friend of ours passed on. I saw a lot of rancor and strife, no small amount from myself.

We saw the design for a new Salem Depot go forward, and I also saw blogging burnout.  I’m still fighting that—if it were not for SATV and my work on the Commission I would be lost..

My apartment was rearranged when a new elevator was built in my building this past year.  It still isn’t open yet but hopefully soon…

Last year I missed the groundbreaking ceremony for the Salem Jail.  The ribboncutting was yesterday.  I missed that too.  But I did go to the open house!

To another year of blogging!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Salem Commission on Disabilities May 2010 Unofficial Minutes

Collage of Elliot, Andy's late guide dog

The May meeting has been dedicated to Elliot.  This is a collage created by Andy’s daughter.

Salem Commission on Disabilities Meeting Minutes for May 2010

May 18th, 2010

Meeting Introduction

The Salem Commission on Disabilities met on May 18th, 2010. Jean Levesque will not be present as he was scheduled for heart surgery this week. David Tracht is off.

Present: David Martel, Debra Lobsitz, Michael Taylor, Andrew J. LaPointe, Dave Knowlan, guest, Tom Boudreau, Verizon, and Jack Harris.

Guest Presenter

Mr. Tom Boudreau of Verizon:

Jack: It’s been a long time coming; Jean Levesque and I met with Tom, and Stan Usovicz, over the winter and felt he would be a very good resource for the community as far as what Verizon offers. I’ll let Tom speak.

Tom: Thank you all for inviting me here today. I can’t hear anything, so I brought an interpreter.

I work with the Customer Center for People with Disabilities. We serve people like the deaf with TDD/TTY phones. We serve people with hearing impairments with amplified phones. We try to use technology to help people. For example we help people with JAWS. Most people are concerned--is the service compatible with their line? We try to give the right authoritative answer.

[Verizon FIOS] has opened a lot of doors for people with disabilities.

Dave Martel: Not in Salem.

Tom: I live in Peabody. Not there either

Tom: It's a fantastic technology. Basically the phone is like a little tv or computer with a webcam. People with sign language can use it. If your kid calls you're going to want to see him to see that everything's fine. It looks easy, but what makes it work is very complicated.

It's internet based but you need a certain speed; too slow and the service becomes choppy.

So, what we need for that is download and upload speeds that are faster. Most people don't know their upload speeds; hey tell the customer their download speeds but almost never upload speeds.

FIOS offers an upload speed of 2 Mbps, and high-definition television.

What's interesting is that … you can reach out and communicate with anyone with your language.

We offer phones that the deaf can use to communicate with sign.

We do serve people who are hard of hearing. We have all kinds of technology for them. We have the Relay. How does that work?

The caller calls a third-party Relay service. The Relay operator will use the TTY to the deaf caller at 65 wpm--faster than the national standard of 45 wpm.

Now it is improved; the caller will talk to the relay operator who will transcribe text to the computer much faster at 150 wpm.

That's what I try to do. New things come up every day.

The important thing about my work about the center I work with is, what is the definition of disability: What I tell people is that when their [abilities] and the environment do not match, they have a disability..

It takes patience to work with customers, like blind customers who can't see the phones or things they're working on. I ask them to put their hands on the device. I don't claim to know everything. I get and give one to one training to deal with different customers and their different disabilities. If they can't hear, we can amplify our outgoing phones. We want them to be comfortable. We ask a lot of questions. How can you make the right decisions if you can't ask the right decisions?

People with motion disabilities, we have to make sure they have the right tools. I have many people come to me.

This is a center that is entirely devoted to people with disabilities. That's very important to point out.

Our products are great. But we are very proud of our customer service. It is only as good as we can make it and we are trying to make it the best. We want to make our customers very comfortable. Any questions about phone, TV, cable or Internet service, I would be very happy to answer.

We can't deal with things like TV commercials but we can deal with captions. The service in the 1990's was what was known as Line 21. Now, it is digital and Line 21 has disappeared. The law required that any device with video have CC built in. But many people found that after digital, the CC was turned off and they had to turn it on at the device.

The important thing to realize is that there's a place for people to call to find this information.

Jack: One of the questions I have is, do you have direct responsibilities for training your CS people about people with disabilities?

Tom: Yes I work on training ... And try to include that.

Jack: This is more of a business aspect than disabilities. Verizon seems to be a much more expensive product, in their landline services, than other products. Can people with disabilities get price breaks?

Tom: Two part answer: We do have discounts in some areas. Some blind qualify for free directory assistance. Verizon does offer a competitive price if you get several services together. We can get FIOS TV, internet, phone for $99.

Dave Martel: Not yet!

Tom: We are working on that. If there is competition, the prices will go down.

Jack: When you talk about competition, I think it is extremely important to continue or complete service to Salem not only for the residents but also for the people who live and work in Salem. The more leverage that can be brought to bear with VZ and FIOS will go a long way towards residents and tourists but also with VZ. Especially for the disability community.

Dave Moisan: FIOS access to multi-unit buildings? Especially public multi-unit buildings?

Tom: FIOS is still cheaper to the customer than other services with bundling. And DSL is limited by distance, FIOS is not.

Andy: $99? One year.

Tom: Two years. Every state [and franchise] has different terms and I don’t' try to memorize them all. Just call and see what deals they can offer you? All I can do is encourage you to make the phone call.

Andy: I had occasion to work with their [VZ] customer service and am very happy with it.

Tom: Thank you.

Andy: I can tell you I'm not happy with Comcast telephone.

Tom: I'm more concerned with their picture/TV service and the picture phones. The TV service looks much better, much more than some TV's can display. I've been very fortunate to go to a FIOS house and see all the things that can be done. Even refrigerators that can order food!

If you can save money and get the best quality service out there; people with disabilities will benefit. I'm very proud of my work. We have two centers in Marlborough [MA] and Oxnard [CA]. The baby boom generation has more people with mobility impairments and disabilities and we can make a strong business case.

I can tell you right now we are providing it.

Jack: What about videoconferencing? Hardware? Resources for people with disabilities? Costs? How?

Tom: Many, many Internet based providers. Most video phone companies will provide the phone free of charge but you must have internet service--it won't work otherwise. They make money on their relay service which defrays the cost of the phone.

Tom: 5 or 6 companies. Changes every day. Some are wireless and I am trying one right now--not that I'm trying to drive my car with it!

Andy: Sure you're not in Sales?

Tom: I'm not trying to push a product that's worse than the competition. I wouldn't push it if I weren't confident in it, because if you don't like it you won't be back.

Jack [and all]: Thank you for coming.

Old Business

Market Basket MBTA Bus Stop

Jack: I do have a small update: I talked to Mr. Matthews at MB and heard right back from a woman at the T. I’ll pass around two letters I got. MB and the City and the MBTA met. They did come to some agreement as to where the stop was going, who would pay for it, etc. MB sent back kind of a "threat?" to that deal. So, I said to the lady from the T that I would get back to Mr. Matthews and look at the bus stop issue again.

Options we have: The other half of the plaza is owned by a different company. If MB can't do it, perhaps these people can. Our ultimate goal has always been the safety of the passengers using MB and Shaws. I will keep people updated and am working with Jason Silva to get something done by the time the snow flies.

Salem Common Tot Lot

Jack: As some of you may have been aware, through the city's website and a piece in the paper, the Salem Common Tot Lot is being built this weekend, Thurs.-Saturday 7 AM through dusk.

The Salem Gazette article claims Steve Dibble is involved in the project but no confirmation. Hopefully this will be a successful project.

As some of you may know there was another tot lot project that happened over on High Street. Check that out.

Tavern in the Square

Jack: There’s been a new development in the Tavern in the Square situation. As you know, the sidewalk is blocked when the outdoor seating is opened.

David Martel: According to yesterday’s Salem News, The TITS in Central Square Cambridge does NOT block the sidewalk. Beverages can be carried to and from the restaurant across the open sidewalk.

Jack: That would help much. Beth Rennard is looking into this. Also, the News article had a complete list of sidewalk dining areas. Very helpful!

Dave Martel: Lots of people in Salem love and use outdoor seating.

Jack: No one wants to take away from outdoor seating but public access to public areas is still very daunting. TITS presents one important issue but not the most important one.

Jack: Some business owners were saying: It was only a "little" inconvenience for people with disabilities. I disagreed. Strongly. I got up and let them know that in no uncertain terms. The more [stuff] thrown out on the sidewalks, the harder it is for everyone to traverse.

People got the message We may be stuck with [the arrangement] of TITS because of certain political decisions, but we will continue to try to develop a clear path of travel.

David Martel: People are wondering just why the situation is different in Cambridge. There was more of a enclosed seating area, though I could be wrong.

Jack: This is, too, there’s not a lot of difference between the two. The other thing to be aware of, I let them know the other issue that they and the city need to be aware of is, there needs to be a 36-inch clearance in the seating area itself [for diners with disabilities]. Someone can file a complaint. Enforcement is going to be a big issue. Of course, I was reassured, “oh yes, we will manage that etc.”

Jack: I want to make all of you aware that you may hear of violations, not only from residents but also visitors.

Dave Martel: Adriatic took over the Edgewater; I got many complaints when the Edgewater was in operation; they would move barriers when Tom St. Pierre called, but then they’d move them back.

Andy: Laws different in Cambridge vs .Salem?

David Martel: Supposedly it was the state board making the rules.

MAAB Updates

Vinnin Square

Jack: I called Mark Dempsey, who does the survey, to schedule a site visit to Vinnin Sq. that had an access problem some time ago and 4 First St. and he will come in a few weeks.

The Vinnin Sq. property has been a problem for some time; they promised to fix the problem but nothing has been done as of this spring. We concurred that we should file a complaint and Mark Dempsey will be paying a visit.

Salem Housing Authority

Jack: Dave Martel & David Tracht made the site visit [at 45 St. Peter], made recommendations to the MAAB. The variance was approved.

Jack: Is the new elevator up and running?

David Moisan: Not yet. I understood the variance involved a new control panel on the 1st floor?

Jack: Correct.

David Moisan: I know when the new elevator is operating, the old elevator is going to be replaced. The old elevator replacement is in the design stage. I don’t know any more than any other tenant.

Andy: Dave, how many floors?

David Moisan: 5.

Jack: That’s why the second elevator was needed. The old elevator was breaking down constantly. \

76 Lafayette Street (The Howling Wolf)

Jack: This is going to be a taco restaurant, down the street from SATV [in the West Coast Video building]. I wrote the MAAB. The variance--ramp, restrooms and signage—is completely approved.

Berba Dental

[Wilson St. @ Highland]

Railings on HP ramp are not in compliance. When Jean comes back I can check the slope with our scale. They are getting an architect and the MAAB is giving them til August.

Dave Martel: Plenty of spaces near the ramp--but none of them marked.

Charlie R.: Mount the signs high enough over snowbanks, and paint them blue.

City Hall Elevator

Jack: An update on the City Hall elevator. It’s under construction. The power is installed, and the elevator cab is on its way. Hopefully by July it will be in service. Natalie Dill has been giving us regular and very informative updates. Excellent job!

New Business

A-frame signs

Charlie: A matter on the A-Frame signs. We gave our version of how dangerous the signs can be to people with canes; they can get their canes stuck on it and break it. There's no consistency on A-frames. There is a regulation for allowed square footage of signage per running foot of building. That should include A-Frame signs. I'm talking with Mike Sosnowski.

Marie's Sweet Something has a sign that is very well designed, with a colonial style that does not obstruct the building. It's very attractive.

Marie was there at the meeting and appreciated my comments.

Dave Martel: Businesses on Front St. at her location have followed the same convention so that Front St. looks very consistent and unified.

Charlie: As long as they don't interfere with the path of travel.

Also mentioned: Cobblestones on Essex Street Mall are HORRENDOUS! I've seen children in carriages being pushed down the street--there can't be a worse torture for them!

Andy: The thing is they're looking for a path of travel to be at least 5 feet (wide). They will bring the Commission in for any variance. 95% of the meeting was based on the MAAB and concerns of people with disabilities

It was a good meeting. I have a copy of the committee report which I will email everyone. . I did tell the committee that it is very important they use us [the commission] a lot more as it is much easier to deal with issues before they actually come out there.

We can even go to the businesses to talk with them individually.

Charlie: One thing I brought up at the meeting: When the new high school was built we went to many meetings--but this was well before anything was built! We had a lot of changes, but they were minor and didn't cost much. Everything we do is for the benefit of the City of Salem and the citizens of Salem and the visitors to Salem. This is all volunteer work!

David Martel: If people utilize us more, people see us more involved and that is good.

Andy: [About service dogs] Not all dogs are the same. Consistency is really a must. I brought up using a cane--as I have to now use one--I have memories of using canes and it tells me that people often step on the cane and break it, especially if you have [just] a 36 inch path of travel. They don't pay attention to the cane, where they would pay attention to the dog.

Especially Heritage week, Haunted Happenings, etc. Salem is a big attractor to many people with disabilities. So I think this is going to work out good.


Andy: Back in February, my daughter made a collage for her class project on Elliot. She asked me for help and my wife Cheryl helped put together the pictures. The project got an A.

Disabilities Policy Consortium

Jack: Debra L. and I have been working on this. We would like to host a future meeting of the Disabilities Policy Consortium. I don’t know as much as I should; I know something about it, but not enough.

Debra L.: I have a contact with the DPC; I contacted her about the possibility of using some venues Salem to host an event. She told me the next meeting of the DPC will be in Wilmington—June 29th, 6 PM—and invitations will go out soon.

Jack: If you can get the information and invitations, we might be able to get the Council on Aging to transport commissioners to this meeting. It would be very worthwhile to go and a great networking experience. There’s not a lot of consolidation of disability-related resources. I am told Jeff Dugan of MOD will be there. Hopefully this will be productive.


The meeting adjourned at 5:40 PM. Next meeting, June 15th, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tavern in the Square has an open sidewalk—In Cambridge!

Downtown Seating Tavern in the Square 2010-05-05 010

Very interesting development in the Tavern in the Square situation:  Apparently, the Tavern’s Cambridge location at Central Square also has a sidewalk running through it—but it’s not closed off, unlike in Salem!

Here it is in Bird’s-eye View:

Map picture

The outdoor seating can just be seen behind the white van in the center of the frame.  I have been to Central Square a number of times before the restaurant was there and I can say it would be virtually impossible to close off that section of street for the restaurant as there is much, much pedestrian traffic passing that point.

The seating seems to most resemble that of Rockafella’s, which makes me wonder all the more how this restriction in Salem came about.

Without speaking for the Commission, I can still say that this is a very interesting development that we will be pursuing for sure.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Remembering Elliot

Andy and Elliot

[Courtesy photo from the Salem News used without permission.]

Last week, my colleague and friend on the Salem Commission on Disability had sad news:  His longtime guide dog, Elliot, passed away.

We have plenty of stories on the Commission about Elliot.  He was Andy’s second guide dog, following the retirement of Yates, both dogs having been fostered and trained by Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation.

One of the hardest things to remember when meeting any service animal—and I have met many over the years—is that the animal is “on the clock”.  It’s working for its owner, doing its job.  You can’t pet the animal or talk to the animal or interact with it as you would a pet.

As a pet lover in general, this is hard for me to remember.

Elliot made it even harder.

Elliot, like many dogs, loved most humans and wanted very much to meet new friends.  Whenever I got into a car with Andy to go somewhere, Elliot would jump in the back seat, but not before giving his fellow passengers a kiss and a lick with his tongue as if to say, “Hi!  You can be my buddy?!”

During Commission meetings, Andy would often pick the seat next to mine, near the center of the table.

Elliot would turn to me, lick my hand and look at me for acknowledgment.  It was hard to ignore him, yet I had to gently nudge him to curl up next to Andy for the remainder of the meeting.

Which he did.  Fidelco is not only good at socializing its foster dogs, but also training them. 

Elliot was a great dog.

He will be missed, and not only by Andy.

The 2010 Fidelco Walk next week is dedicated to Elliot.

My colleague, Jean Harrison, had this  memory of Elliot:

I really thought of Elliot as an under the table commissioner.  He was a dear, sweet dog.  I occasionally had the good fortune to have him rest his head against my leg or on my foot.  Which was very nice & made me feel welcome as the most junior commissioner.

Very sweet.  Thanks, Jean, for letting me repost this.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tavern in the Square sidewalk controversy

Tavern in the Square outdoor seating

Update on last summer’s controversy over Tavern in the Square.  The tavern’s outdoor seating has been completed and is now open for diners.

But as mentioned in the Salem News, it’s not necessarily open for pedestrians.  Due to state liquor laws, the sidewalk is closed to public access while the outdoor seating is in use.

The Commission on Disabilities has been very concerned about the blocked sidewalk for some timeOur co-chairs spoke out last week.

SRA chairman Brennan says, of the detour:

"You might take 20 extra steps before you get beyond it," said Salem Redevelopment Authority Chairman Mike Brennan. "It's not a major impediment. I don't see this as a major problem. We're not asking you to walk a quarter of a mile."

Mr. Brennan, I have colleagues who have to count every step they have to take.  20 extra steps is not a problem for me but it is a problem for many cane users and those whose knees have given out.

But I can speak as a visually impaired person and I believe there is a problem.

Several years ago I nearly lost my sight:  My right eye’s retina tore, followed several months later by my left eye’s retina.  It was nearly two years and five operations before my sight was stable again.

During my recovery I had to perform many daily tasks with 20/100 vision or worse.  Tasks which included taking walks on sidewalks downtown and boarding buses.  You might think I should have just stayed home, but I and many others don’t have servants or even many family members to help.  There are many people walking their way through Salem with bad eyes;  I would not be the first nor the last.

To this day I have little usable vision in my left eye (20/200). 

To illustrate the problems around the Tavern in the Square area I took some photos, at noon and at dusk.  I’ve blurred them to approximate what and how I see out of my “bad” eye.

First, here is Tavern in the Square, from Washington St. walking south:

Tavern in the Square, Washington St. noon south

Here is the same view, through my bad eye:

Downtown Seating Tavern in the Square 2010-05-05 day south blurred

Now, Tavern in the Square from New Derby St.:

Downtown Seating Tavern in the Square 2010-05-05 019 day north And blurred:

Downtown Seating Tavern in the Square 2010-05-05 019 day north blurred These pictures were snapped around high noon that day.  I came back at dusk a few days later.  When your eyesight deteriorates, perhaps later in life, you may first notice it at dusk, a very challenging time to see, even for those with normal sight.

Tavern in the Square at dusk, Washington St.:

Outdoor Seating Tavern in the Square Dusk 2010-05-06 004 dusk south


Outdoor Seating Tavern in the Square Dusk 2010-05-06 004 dusk south blurred

From New Derby St. at dusk:

Outdoor Seating Tavern in the Square Dusk 2010-05-06 016 north 2

And blurred:

Outdoor Seating Tavern in the Square Dusk 2010-05-06 016 north 2 blurred

The sign directing diners was blown down—it was gusty that day.

When your sight is bad enough  that you can only see lights and darks and vague shapes, it’s a very different experience than most are used to.  Many can imagine being sightless—just by closing their eyes—but few realize the problems faced by the visually impaired.

Much was made, during last week’s meeting and the comments in the News, about accommodating “just 4 blind people” who walk through the intersection.  I have no idea if that count is accurate, having been thrown out by a reader on the News page.  But I do know there are many more visually impaired out there.  Probably someone you know.

Here’s one last set of photos:

Outdoor Seating Tavern in the Square Dusk 2010-05-06 017 new derby curb

This is, for lack of a better term, a curb structure put in during Tavern in the Square’s development.  I don’t know what purpose it was originally for.  The Commission has been told this was “a mistake”.  Here it is blurred, and at dusk:

Outdoor Seating Tavern in the Square Dusk 2010-05-06 017 new derby curb blurred

This is the quintessential problem I face as a visually impaired person.  Even though my sight is a good deal better than this, I have a very hard time seeing slight contrasts as represented by this sidewalk structure.

(This was blocked by sawhorses after this picture was taken.)

I occasionally attend seminars in IT as part of my field, and there is a hotel in the theatre district in Boston that I will never go to again because they insist on having steps into and out of the lobby that are black and completely unmarked.  I hate falling.  I have many other examples, of which this is only one.  (Another reason I hate cobblestones.)

I have no position on Prevey’s proposed fees on sidewalk access, and I don’t think the Commission will have a position either (at least until we next meet, if even then.)

I have no animus whatsoever towards Tavern in the Square, either, and I understand the other factors involved.

But I think there is a problem here, and I suspect the Commission will see it that way at next week’s meeting.

The resolution may involve orange barriers (at least, yellow or orange ropes, not necessarily construction barriers.)  Or it may involve redesigning the New Derby intersection, which has been on our wish-list.

But the one thing this is not about, Mr. Brennan, is “20 extra steps”.

Update:  EyesOnStreets has commented on my post..  I don’t agree with everything said there (I’m not a fan of Kunstler and, I can see the back side of the new courthouse from my house and don’t think it’s ugly) but I appreciate the kind words nonetheless.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Salem Commission on Disabilities April 2010 Unofficial Minutes

[Sorry for the delay.  No pictures this post—DM]

The Salem Commission on Disabilities met on April 20th, 2010 at 4:00 PM.

Present: Jack Harris, Debra Lobsitz, Andy J. LaPointe, David Tracht, David Moisan, Charlie Reardon, David Martel and Jean Harrison.

Mike Taylor was unable to attend. Jean Levesque and Mike Sosnowski were not present.

Old Business--MBTA Bus stop, Market Basket

Jack: As most of you know, with the help of David Moisan, we’ve brought attention to the T bus stop at Market Basket. The city, with the help of Market Basket and the MBTA put a meeting together with suggestions. It has stalled. Not sure how, but in my discussions with Jason Silva, it ran into a roadblock. Market Basket and the T had a discussion, thought it was a good idea, MB offered to construct a shelter. But the T backed off, didn't like the location of the shelter.

I called Mr. Mathews to arrange a meeting with Jason in hopes of getting this done. It’s a safety issue.

Dave Moisan: I’d gotten a message from Richard Swinuch that he’d got from Keenan’s office; the abutter of MB (Shaw’s plaza next door) did not approve of the bus routing.

Jack: MB was going to pay for the bus shelter to be on their side of the mall.

Watch the Walmart/Lowes project--new stoplights and crosswalks are in now in the area but there could be reconfiguration. Several other stops on Highland Ave. present the same problems but the MB stop is the most notable.

MBTA New Garage at T lot

Jack: As some of you know, we won part of the fight: There will be a full-height platform--walk from the platform straight to the train (no steps). Now, we want a canopy over the whole platform. Previously, the T was citing money issues, plus the platform is on a curve and they didn't want to do it. From discussion with several people from the state, this is a win-win.

Charlie: There will be more wheelchair passengers, now that they can more easily board. Scott Maguire (friend of Charlie’s) once had to ride in the back of a baggage car.

Jack: This will help people on foot who won’t have to go up on steps.

David Martel: Will the boarding area be enclosed?

Jack: The T is still accepting comments.

Jean Harrison: They are more aware of the disabled.

Jack: A $300 million judgment (against the MBTA) will do that.

David Martel: Not to mention the curb cuts all over Salem. People take them for granted and if we took even half of them out, people would notice.

When we did the Access Monitor training, so many people from outside came to Salem and realized how good our access is compared to other places.

Charlie: The Witch Museum is accessible.

David Martel: Many of these people could grandfather out of the ADA requirements but they go ahead and make things accessible. Biff Michaud did that with the Witch Museum.

They put a lot of reenactments downstairs to make them accessible.

Andy: Another comment on the train platform; you may go on the train several times and not have any problems, but once you may have a problem. I had to call for my stop once and the train stopped halfway to Beverly. They had to back up to the station.

Jack: First rule: Disabled people need to let the conductor know where they will depart the train.

Andy: I did do that.

David Martel: Flight attendants do that too; I asked for assistance on a recent flight. You might hate doing that if you’re disabled—we’re all proud people—but we must do that.

Jack: Self-designation certainly helps. Safety, plus it helps them get to where they need to go.

David Tracht: The conductors must help too.

Andy: Blind people who get the ambition to travel, can get that ambition lost very quickly when they have a problem.

David Tracht: The train put me to sleep on the way home and I always woke up before my stop. I always wondered what if I didn’t? Partially-sighted people have particular problems in the fall and winter.

Jack: I ran into a new system today. They have automatic stop announcements that you may have heard in the subway (“Next stop...Government Center"). There is now a system on the commuter rail—but it has a female voice, which I don’t like.

Those who get a Blind Access Pass for the T: It's no longer good forever. It needs to be renewed every five years.

Renewal reminders aren't sent automatically.

Charlie: A blind person or a sight-impaired person can’t possibly read the fine print on the pass! What is he/she supposed to do?

Jack: I called the T to get a new one. They said they’re backed up. What do I do in the meantime? The phone rep told me something interesting: “Try the pass and maybe they’ll let you on!”

David Tracht: Won’t work on commuter rail.

David Moisan: I remind people that about five years ago, the T went to their Charlie Card system. They may be hoping people will fall off the rolls because they are deceased or they are no longer impaired.

David Martel: Where can you reload a Charlie Card in Salem?

David Moisan: Register the CharlieCard online. If you’re comfortable using debit online, this is best. All the buses have fare boxes that can be used to reload cards.

Most drivers are patient. Or you can go on the bus a few minutes before the trip. There are a few extra steps that involve tapping a button, tapping your card, inserting your money, tapping the card again and finally tapping the card one last time to pay the fare.

Jack: One of the drivers will help if you ask.

MAAB Update--4 First Street

4 First St. will get a site visit from the MAAB to review the parking lot access problem. We were hoping to do it this week but things came up. We’ll let everyone know when this is happening.

Variance at Morency Manor, Salem Housing Authority

Jack: The Salem Housing Authority asked for a variance. I handed this to David Martel and David Tracht since it would be a conflict of interest for me (and David Moisan) to handle it since I (and Dave M.) are SHA tenants.

David Martel: SHA wants a variance for Morency Manor. The control panel for the new elevator is in an alcove, but they want to put in a 2nd control panel. There should have been a variance in the first place from the contractor.

Variance at 76 Lafayette Street

Jack: Taco restaurant has been proposed for the unrented part of West Coast Video. The variance was requested before the building was even permitted, which we really appreciate. We will make a recommendation and send it along

Burba Dental (Highland Ave. @ Wilson Rd.) Variance

Jack: There are no HP parking spaces and ramp is not compliant. Tom St. Pierre will be back and we will discuss this. We want to know why the ramp is not compliant. I will let people know what’s going on.

Jack: The SRA had a meeting about outdoor seating. I talked about the direct path of travel. There was a problem involving the old Edgewater Café. They had seating that blocked off the sidewalk and got two complaints about it.

We will have to revisit this.

Dave Martel: Tavern in the Square: They flattened the traffic island and relocated the traffic controls. They did a very nice job and there are no access issues or trip hazards. They did listen.

Jack: We will have to watch this; summer will wind up quickly.

New Business

ADA Observance July 26, 2010

Jack: This year is the 20th anniversary of the ADA. I would like to put together some sort of good observance. The ILCNSCA is putting on an event. I'd like to have an event here, at Winter Island or Old Town Hall or the Ferry.

There are many accessible areas that are new in Salem that we should or want to highlight.

David Martel: Access training again?

Jack: Jeff Dugan is trying to visit every Commission on Disabilities in the state (200?). And is asking for an invitation (we will invite.) Regional meetings have happened, and the Disability Consortium Council has been doing some of these meetings.

Debra: Regional meeting in Salem?

David Martel: It’s possible. Visitor's Center is one possibility.

Dave Martel: For people starting up or reactivating their Commissions, Salem is an excellent model.

Incident on Bridge Street

Jack: There was a small article in the paper last weekend. A young lady in a chair was trying to get up Bridge St. near the motel with the MassHighway construction. A truck was parked on the sidewalk in the way, so she went around and the flagman on duty was very upset with her. Not that it’s necessarily the flagman’s fault, but the pedestrian should have gotten assistance. I brought it to the attention of John Jodoin about this.

Charlie Reardon: I talked about this with the construction crew on Bridge St. The flagmen don’t want to work on Bridge St. Officers will work Bridge St. while the [civilian] flagmen will do side streets.

Jack: My interest in this is that the flagman was obviously unhelpful. The truck should not have been parked there.

David Martel: It brings up a thought about school crossing guards. I wanted to cross the street at Boston & Essex Sts. and there was a crossing guard. I asked the guard for help crossing, and he told me I wasn’t a kid. Well, I’m not a senior citizen but still the traffic is horrendous.

Jack: Is the crossing guard solely for children? There needs to be clarification one way or the other.

David Moisan: I have had the opposite—crossing guards who insisted I cross the street with their assistance.

A Frame Signs, City Council Committee Meeting

Jack: Regulations for A-frame signs are being reconsidered. Joan Lovely is heading the committee to govern over these. We have asked for an invitation to a meeting. These signs directly impact the path of travel.

Andy: Nothing specific in the ordinances about disabled or blind, only the general 36 inch rule. If there needs to be consideration for the disabled with those signs, we need to speak out.

Charlie: I suggested to Rinus [Salem Chamber of Commerce] that the red line at Daniel Low's (now Rockefeller's) be cleared of any signs, seating and etc. and make a clear path of travel. This was done last year and all but 2 merchants complied. Signs should be near a tree, pole or other landmark when possible instead of standing on their own.

Andy & Dave Martel: Suggested a map similar to the official visitor's map, but instead of the usual red line, a blue line detailing path of travel and accessible pedestrian signals. A woman from Winthrop told me she has no idea how to safely get from one point of interest to another in her wheelchair.

Dave Martel has volunteered to do this.

Andy: Salem is a great place to visit for people with disabilities. Just go to any place where people from around the state meet, like the Carroll Center for the Blind. They all say Salem is great!

Jean Harrison: Put a sign outside designated restaurants?

Charlie Reardon: I’ll make the sign. It’ll have the HP logo and “courtesy of the Salem Commission on Disabilities” (blue and white).

Dave Martel: The information is sent also to Shaugnessy for use by the patients and families.

Other Business

Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann—911 Indicator Form

Andy: The ILCNSCA had no idea about the 911 indicator form; they are aware now, but for now we need to remind every disabled person in Salem to fill out the 911 indicator form in case of emergencies. All information is confidential.

Jack: 911 Indicator form has been on our website for some time. They just have to call us or attend our meetings. They have not. They've refused to work with us. They haven't even asked us to be part of variance requests. They know we're part of the process and they just don't want to do it.

Andy: If they don't know about it and I didn't know about the ILCNSCA, what's more important is that some disabled person needs to call 911 and it's a crisis--the person won't be thinking of that. Point is, when they fill out the form and something goes wrong, they will know the situation, you're in a wheelchair, you need rescue, etc. We need to bring it to everyone's attention. 25% of Salem's population has a disability. (!)

We need to get the point out.

David Martel: Can put out a flyer?

Andy: We need to work on this continually, and never stop.

Debra: Send the forms to the ILCNSCA?

Andy: I do my show for TIC and send the information everywhere.

Jack: The ILCNSCA gets this?

Andy: Not unless they listen. It's important enough that we need to make this a priority.

Audible Signal at Market Basket Southbound

David Moisan: The audible signal at the bus shelter outside Pep Boys (Market Basket southbound) broke several weeks ago. I notified Jason. The Polara signal was replaced two weeks later with a non-audible button. Need to check back with city engineer to see if audible signal will be replaced. The crosswalk needs audible signals at both sides for them to be effective.

David Martel: I’m surprised there are no audible signals at Salem Hospital. The sun obstructs view at sunrise and sunset.

David Moisan: There are no new signals north of Salem High--all signals between Essex St. and Wilson St. are the old non-audible signals.

Jack: Since you started this query, can you follow up with Jason?

David Moisan: Yes, I will check on that one. And I will ask about what will happen north of the high school. Boston St. is another issue entirely, but my immediate concern is the Market Basket signal.


Next Meeting is May 18, 2010,

Guest will be Verizon [Tom Boudreau]