Disabilities Commission Logs Wins, Makes Plans


Above,  improved handicapped markings at Helen Keller School

The Franklin Commission on Persons with Disabilities met Thursday evening at the community room at Central Park Terrace, with Chair Mary O’Neil presiding in an informal session with few items on the agenda. One member participated remotely. Top of mind and widely discussed was the just-completed Disabilities Expo held at the Senior Center on Saturday, May 20.

“It was great;” enthused member Martha Murray. Her comments were echoed by everyone present, though the failure to get a full head count of all those that came was lamented. Plans were made to write a thank you to all the vendors that participated.

Another “win” reported by member Victoria Strand, was improvements made to the Keller School drop-off and pickup area, where handicapped marking had become faded and often ignored by parents; making it difficult and dangerous for handicapped students and caregivers. Strand said she had been persistent, a “squeaky wheel,” but that finally yielded results with a bright, freshly painted handicapped zone that’s hard to ignore.

Better yet, she noted, school principal Eric Stark sent a note to all parents, guardians and caregivers, noting, “As a school community, we are committed to creating a more accessible and inclusive school environment...Today, I am writing to draw your attention to new pavement markings in front of the school.” The letter included explicit dos and dont’s to clarify responsibilities and safety practices, Strand noted.

That success also highlighted other concern, still not resolved, over the lack of handicapped parking at the Farmer’s Market on the Common and the SNETT Trail and the continued accessibility challenges at Del Carte and elsewhere.

It was reported that great progress has been made in attitude and outlook. Strand and O’Neill took a tour with town officials of several locations, including Beaver Pond/Chilson Beach and were pleased to find that accessibility seems to be considered right from the start, rather than being an afterthought.

In particular. O’Neil cited the high level of accessibility in the rebuilt Nason Street Playground.

Two long-term issues came to a vote during the meeting. First, it was decided to not meet during July and August. Then, after a brief discussion, there was a unanimous vote to deliver a second Disabilities Expo in 2024 and the date tentatively selected is Saturday, May 4, subject to concurrence by the Senior Center and town.

 Several members expressed a desire for more support services and perhaps space for filing materials within the town. This, and the question of whether and when personal phones should be used for official purposes elicited a lively conversation but this matter was tabled for further discussion in the fall. The meeting adjourned after about an hour.

Although the Commission will not be having regular meetings over the summer, those in need of assistance can still call 508 440 1265.

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