Accessibility commission chairman: Assessment is making slow progress

“There’s probably not a day goes by that I don’t talk to someone about accessibility,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.
“This is a civil rights law,” Don Ciota said of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Ciota gave the Board of Selectmen a report on the town’s slow and steady progress toward a town-wide accessibility assessment, which consultants from the Institute for Human Centered Design have been working on since last year.
And, at their April 3 meeting, the selectmen reappointed Ciota to the town’s Commission on Accessibility, which has been overseeing the work on the accessibility assessment, together with Social Services Director Tony Phillips, who serves as the town’s ADA coordinator.
“Preliminary reports have been given to various departments,” said Ciota, who is the commission’s chairman.
“I think of this as a courtesy,” he added.
Department heads are asked to respond to the reports, discussing the accessibility concerns raised by the consultants with their properties, programs and practices.
“Tony tells me a lot of his reports are slow in coming back,” Ciota said. “...It’s been slower than I thought it would be.”
First Selectman Rudy Marconi said Phillips had to battle the tendency to regard his list as more work to do.
“The various department heads see Tony and ‘Oh, here comes the ADA guy again ...’” he said.
Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark suggested a member of the committee could visit departments, offer to help go through the reports with people in the department.
“It might help,” she said.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Ciota said.
He said Phillips and the committee weren’t expecting the departments to complete all the recommendations at this point — just review the draft report, and raise any questions or concerns they may have, before it’s made final.
“All we’re asking them to do is look at it and see if anything jumps out,” he said.
Selectman Bob Hebert supported Kozlark’s idea of having committee members offer to visit departments and work with them.
“Give them a couple of dates,” he said.
Eventually, the goal is for the town to have a prioritized list of ADA-related problems that can be serve as a to-do list of projects to work on.
Another accessibility issue the town is working to address is to make sure outdoor restaurant tables and sales displays in front of shops sidewalks don’t take so much of the sidewalk that it is difficult for wheelchair users to get around.
“A person walking is one thing. A person in a wheelchair is another thing,” Marconi said. “...We’re talking about a minimum clearance — five, six feet.”
The selectmen were happy to reappoint Ciota, and did so unanimously. Marconi noted there were five vacancies to fill on what was in theory a nine-member commission.
“We do need people to serve on the committee,” he said.