~Submitted by Ann A Kiessling
September, 2020, Bedford’s Disabilities Commission engaged KMA to develop an American with Disabilities Act (ADA) Self-Evaluation and Transition Plan https://www.bedfordma.gov/town-manager/pages/disability-commission
Many ADA non-compliance barrier issues throughout Bedford were noted in their report, draft released in July, 2021, accompanied by suggested mitigation strategies, amounting to millions of dollars. KMA suggested prioritizing ADA barrier removal in the following order: schools, police station, town hall, playgrounds, town center, old town hall, library, job lane house and lastly, trails and athletic facilities. The fourth category, playgrounds, includes Bedford’s public spaces, athletic fields and children’s playgrounds. In addition to the many ADA barriers detailed by KMA for Bedford’s school buildings, 59 ADA barriers were noted for Bedford High School and JG Middle School Fields with mitigation estimates of $410,875; 36 ADA barriers were noted for the “Tot Lot” children’s playground near Town Hall with mitigation estimates of $64,300; 51 ADA barriers were noted for Springs Brook Park, Page, South Road and Hartwell athletic fields with mitigation estimates of $297,225; 16 ADA barriers with mitigation estimates of $51,525 were noted for two public areas, the Town Common and Veterans Memorial Park.
None of the new picnic tables placed on the Town Common for COVID-19 are ADA compliant. Many of the ADA barriers noted are lack of designated and accessible parking for handicapped-vans, probably relatively easy to mitigate with appropriate signage. But many of the ADA barriers noted were slopes of pathways, both paved and gravel, that are too steep for safe wheelchair passage. KMA cites slopes of greater than 2% as being non-ADA compliant, and many, if not most, of Bedford’s many miles of sidewalks and asphalt paths cannot be safely navigated by wheelchairs. The suggestion that Bedford is in dire need of more children’s playgrounds and public picnic areas has been made at several town meetings, and this 2021 ADA Self-Evaluation plan highlights that even the existing ones cannot be accessed and enjoyed by Bedford residents with handicaps. The status of the Reformatory Branch Trail seems relatively minor compared to the daily safe navigation needs of Bedford’s handicapped residents.
(Editor’s Note: Ann A. Kiessling, Ph.D., is an elected member of the Bedford Board of
Health. She holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry/Biophysics.)