North Adams city council hears concerns about accessibility issues for residents with disabilities
The North Adams, Massachusetts city council heard concerns about accessibility at its meeting Tuesday.
The message came from North Adams Commission on Disabilities member Ronald Sheldon.
“As an elderly as well as handicapped member of the community, I found it necessary to voice a few areas that I feel are very concerning and particularly non-accessible for persons with disabilities, but who are still able to be mobile," said Elena Sprague, chair of the commission, who read the letter. “The concerns are as follows but not limited to: The sidewalk in front of Goodwill has several large cracks, which makes it difficult to travel on with a motorized scooter wheelchair. Both entrances to Big Y parking lot have large cracks with the potential to damage the tires of a motorized scooter wheelchair. Also, between the cart return and cement post there's hardly any room for a wheelchair scooter to navigate through. The bridge leading to the Corner Market: Nearly all of the sidewalk is coming up. Starting by Surgimed [Corporation] and going up to the [Berkshire Medical Center] satellite ER and doctors’ offices, the sidewalk is also broken in spots. It's very difficult to drive safely while in a motorized scooter wheelchair.”
Sheldon also identified crumbling, inaccessible infrastructure throughout North Adams’ downtown.
“The sidewalks on Ashland Street and the areas around the Ashland Street high rise apartment building are busted up," read Sprague. "The sidewalk all the way down American Legion Drive is similarly in need of repair. It already damaged my scooter, which had to be repaired. Many areas of the sidewalk on Church Street also make it very difficult to drive on a motorized scooter wheelchair. The sidewalks surrounding the post office are terrible, as well as the fact that the door at the post office, although marked as handicapped accessible, doesn't even stay open long enough for a person with a physical disability to get all the way through before it starts to close shut, which I've experienced.”
Sheldon wrote in the letter that many places of importance in North Adams that should be easily accessible to all unfortunately are not.
“Similarly to the post office, the doors at CVS pharmacy and the Brien Center are difficult to open," Sprague continued. "I've gotten stuck on several occasions while attempting to enter and exit the buildings. Even though several of these businesses are private, they are still located within this city. The intent of this letter is not to pick out everything broken and or wrong in our lovely community, but rather to bring awareness to the everyday dangers that I myself faced, as well as I'm sure many other disabled members encounter just by simply trying to get around and have access to or in our community. I'm requesting that you take action to resolve these issues. Sincerely, Ronald Sheldon.”
Mayor Jennifer Macksey asked to have a copy of the letter forwarded to her office.
“We're happy to work with Mr. Sheldon," she said. "We are in the process of some sidewalk repairs. But I'll take a look at the list and let you know where we stand on some things. But we can also help with the private sector as well.”
Councilor Marie Harpin recommended the letter also be forwarded to North Adams Building Inspector and Zoning Officer William Meranti, who Macksey identified as the designated recipient of ADA related concerns in the city.
Community member Isaiah Moore brought up the letter during the public open mic portion of the meeting.
“I think we as a community should think a little bit more on what we consider public ways," he said. "We do as a city clear the roads and we do a lovely job. As mentioned before, I'm proud of the work that our DPW department does. But the sidewalks are often left to the owners of the land next to the sidewalk, which can create hazards if not cleaned properly. And oftentimes they are not, which can create hazards for many people trying to use those sidewalks, which leads them into the roads, which leads them into- which leads to risk for everyone involved.”
Macksey took time during the mayor’s updates to share her own thoughts on accessibility issues in North Adams.
“I also have a mobility issue and I walk regularly to keep up with my mobility issue," she said. "So, I really understand what people say about our sidewalks. In fact, last summer, I tripped on River Street and tore my rotator cuff over a raised sidewalk. So, just from my own mobility issues, I understand that, and I certainly want to work with Mr. Sheldon as well as everyone else in the room to address those. It's long, long overdue, but it is a priority of this administration.”
It was the first council meeting since Macksey confirmed she will run for a second term this year.