Letter to the Editor: Supporting Accessibility on the Trail and at Town Meeting

~Submitted by Sarah Blackman

I have learned a lot in the past couple of years from families affected by disability in our town, who meet unimaginable adversity with grace, strength, and humor. I guess I learned enough evidently that I conjured up the nerve to write this Letter which is not a comfortable thing for me to do.

I have progressive multiple sclerosis. I use an electric wheelchair and am lucky and blessed to be able to venture outside of my home. I have never been on the Reformatory Branch Trail. That’s a place where my husband and son go and my friends and their families go and I accepted that it is off limits for me. When my family enjoys time together outdoors, we rely, weather-depending, on a handful of local accessible locations. We primarily use the Minuteman Trail and our neighborhood streets.

I used to be a healthy person who traveled with ease to explore a walking or hiking trail. Now with more perspective, I also understand the fantasy of having local access to nature trails-for-all that are well-managed and safe. Disabled people are not on a mission to pave nature trails. We know access to nature can improve any person’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being. If I thought the town and state had plans to destroy the Reformatory Branch Trail, I would not be in favor of this project at all. But after reading the town’s FAQ (link is here), I do not think that is what’s happening.

There are people in our town in favor of this project, including me, because it will open up a local trail-for-all and that is a wonderful thing when it can happen. The most defining aspect of a truly accessible trail is having the proper organization and resources to maintain it. That’s what the vote is about in November.

A larger issue for the Bedford disability community is being able to safely attend town meetings and vote. I encourage the Select Board and Town Manager to keep improving town meeting accessibility. If you have a specific request for the town to help you make attending town meeting more accommodating for your disability, please call the town and make your voice heard.

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The opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are those of the writer, not The Bedford Citizen.

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Leah Devereaux
October 6, 2022 10:45 pm

I am so sorry you have to come out and publicly share so much about your life over this. Thank you for your advocacy for the disabled community!! You deserve to access this space with your family. I hope to one day be able to take a safe stroll/roll with you down the RBT as well!

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