Cape Cod MA city disability commissions search to fill vacant seats

FALMOUTH – Residents and visitors who use a wheelchair may want to enjoy Cape Cod’s beaches, go to a shop, or play in a playground. But the organizations responsible for ensuring that they have access to all that the Cape has to offer need additional help.

Some Cape Cod disability commissions report multiple vacancies, which can lead to postponed meetings if they fail to meet the quorum. The chairmen of the commission hope that more people will join the community boards.

“There are still many people with disabilities who do not have access,” said Victoria Carr, chairwoman of the Bourne Commission on Disabilities. “And we need someone who stands up for them.”

Disability commissions work with cities to ensure buildings, parking lots, beaches, and playgrounds comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act 1990. They work with people with disabilities to make sure they have everything they need.

Kathleen Haynes, chair of the Falmouth Disability Commission, said the commission has had difficulty reaching the quorum for public meetings since March and needed five more people to join its nine-member board.

“I’m not sure how many people know the commission exists,” said Haynes.

The Falmouth Commission on Disabilities provides resources for people with disabilities, Haynes said. It also organized a disabled wellness fair that helped people find services such as home care, health checks, vision and hearing solutions, and a wheelchair trail to make residents aware of what it’s like to use a wheelchair, said Haynes.

The Falmouth Commission is also making sure there is disabled parking in the car parks and is figuring out how to provide access to the beaches, whether it be with organizations helping to get beach access mats or finding out if seaweed can be cut to that people with disabilities can get through, Haynes said.

“They seem like trivial things, but they’re not for the disabled,” said Haynes. “It’s not just about mobility. There are hearing and intellectual (disabilities). All these disabilities there are and the Commission is here to help solve problems. ”

The Falmouth Commission liaises with other organizations that want to help people with disabilities find funding for projects, whether through grants or parking fees for people illegally parking in a disabled parking space, Haynes said.

The Barnstable Disability Commission has four members and needs one more to hold a meeting, said Chairman Paul Logan. His next meeting is July 21, but it may have to be canceled due to a lack of quorum, he said. The board of directors can have up to 11 members, but they don’t expect this to come into effect anytime soon.

For the past five years, the Barnstable Disability Commission has been grappling with the dwindling interest, Logan said.

The commission is still active working on the Barnstable City ADA Self-Assessment and Transition Plan project. The project, funded by a $ 250,000 grant from the Massachusetts Office on Disabilities, will enable a contractor to review city-owned facilities, playgrounds, and beaches to ensure everything is in compliance with the American Disabilities Act. The contractor will also identify areas that are not compliant, Logan said.

“We get a lot of contacts from people, both through phone calls and / or emails from people with problems, who are citizens of the city and visitors, and we get everything from the beach to parking lots to an elevator in the city offices.” said. “And the city can handle that safely. If not, they will contact the disability commission. ”

Carr, chairman of the Bourne Disability Commission, said two seats had recently become vacant but the commission is very active and all eight members have their jobs to do.

The Bourne Commission is looking for someone from the Sagamore area to join, as well as someone with a technical background who could inspect buildings to make sure they’re compliant, Carr said.

The Bourne Commission is involved in the rail line, making accessible playgrounds, making sure sidewalks are level and providing more accessible parking, especially in places like Monument Beach, she said. It is working on installing zebra crossings so that the blind or deaf can cross the street safely, she said.

“That’s what we do and we would love you to join us, but we need commitment,” said Haynes.

Follow Jessica Hill at jhill@capecodonline.com. Follow her on Twitter: @jess_hillyeah.

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