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Swampscott lands $32K disability grant

Wicked Local North - 1/27/2020

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The town has received a $32,507 state grant to determine which of its public buildings and programs violate the American Disabilities Act (ADA). There are 1,358 Swampscott residents with disabilities, including hearing, vision, ambulatory and cognitive challenges.

"The grant will be used to perform an assessment of particular buildings and processes to determine where we are doing well and where we need to make improvements," said Swampscott Human Resources Director Julie DeLillo.

It's the law

The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

"The town is committed to offering full and equal participation in all aspects of life by all persons with disabilities, and will work to promote maximum opportunities which foster dignity and self-determination," said Marzie Galazka, Swampscott's community and economic development director.

The town is using the grant to hire a consultant to evaluate facilities and services, and develop a prioritized ADA Self-Evaluation and Transition Plan. The consultant will also provide the town with a cost estimate for remediation work.

Facilities that will be looked at include Reach Arts at 89 Burrill St.; the Fish House and pier, 391 Humphrey St.; Town Hall, 22 Monument Ave.; Swampscott Library, 61 Burrill St.; the Field House, 585 Humphrey St.; and the Gazebo at Linscott Park, 126 Humphrey St.

"We know we're not compliant," said Reach Arts Co-President David Shear.

The three-story building, constructed in 1885, doesn't have an elevator. Shear hopes once the building is identified by the consultant, the town will be able to apply for grants to help pay for an elevator.

"It's great that they're looking at us," he said.

Get involved

"I'm very happy about the grant," said Deb Newman, who served on the Commission on Disability. (The commission is in transition and being reconstituted, according to Swampscott Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald.)

Newman hopes the town will consider building an inclusive/accessible playground, similar to one at the Perkins School for the Blind. She's also lobbying for greater beach access for people with disabilities.

"I know the town is working on getting appropriate mats for the beach. We're talking about Fisherman's or Phillips," she said. "And I've already acquired two, child-size beach wheelchairs. Smile Mass has said it would give us an adult-size one this summer."

Smile Mass is a nonprofit that helps families with children or adults with disabilities enjoy vacations and recreation experiences.

Carolina Velasquez, who also volunteered on the Commission on Disability, urges more residents to get involved and push for greater accessibility.

"We need real people with their expertise, knowledge, stories, and willingness to work on projects from start to finish. We need volunteers for the commissions, for outreach, for funding, and more." Anyone interested in joining the Commission on Disability can fill out a form at http://bit.ly/2emqdEB.

Galazka hopes the ADA assessment will be complete within a few months. The grant money must be spent by June.

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