Letter to the Editor: Many Local Barriers for Disabled Beyond the Status of the Reformatory Branch Trail

~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.)

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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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Amy Kelly
November 20, 2022 10:44 am

That there are many other areas of town with lack of accessibility that need attention is absolutely no reason to have turned down this one. And to try to present objection to it as concern for those with disabilities is cynical and manipulative.

Robert Kalantari
November 8, 2022 7:14 am

We must always evaluate the pros and cons for every project. As usual, Dr. Kiessling has done her research and she is bringing up many valid points about the issues with this project. This project does not even put a dent on addressing the many ADA issues we have in our town. And for those of us who care about the environment and the nature, we cannot support this project regardless of the free money coming from the state. You don’t need to hang yourself if they give you free rope.

Amy Kelly
November 28, 2022 7:22 am

Just because there are other ways that Bedford is denying disabled people access was no reason for the people of this town to deny us this access. And I know this is how the rules work, but I find it shameful that a full 50% of people had good will and wanted this for other people, but the opponents with no more votes won and accessibility lost.

November 7, 2022 9:19 pm

The RBT project can happen NOW, these other projects will take years. We want and need what we can get right now, and the rest can come when the funds are appropriated and the plans are in place. I dearly desire better accessibility at the tot lot for my husband to be able to be on the playground with our children, but that’s not what stands before us. Access to natures playground on the RBT is what stands before us and we deserve it.

Aaron Bourret
November 7, 2022 5:09 pm

I want to thank the author for highlighting these needs. Unfortunately the author implies the current situation as an “either/or” where the town must choose between funding the Minuteman extension project or the ADA improvements she highlights. This is not the case. Article 10 is funded with state and federal funds. These funds can not be freed up for other infrastructure work in town as it is earmarked for specific transportation related improvements. If Article 10 fails, these funds instead would be redirected to projects in other towns, only then leaving Bedford to choose between these ADA improvements and projects within the scope of Article 10 such as the Railroad Avenue safety and infrastructure improvements (estimated at $3.5 million alone) or improving the Reformatory crossing at Route 62 where two people have been struck be motor vehicles this year.

McClain, John
November 7, 2022 3:27 pm

Considering that all the construction funding is coming from state and federal funds that can’t be applied to other projects, I don’t see how going forward with Minuteman Extension puts other efforts to improve access across town at a disadvantage. Indeed, since it will end up saving the town money (since we won’t have to pay to fix Railroad Ave), it makes other priorities possible.

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