A friend informed me some people are supporting the new traffic plan on Spring St. on Americans with Disabilities Act grounds. They say that closing off the street altogether makes it safer for persons with disabilities in that area. They don’t realize that it creates the necessity to travel further by wheelchair to get places and it makes access to the courthouse even more difficult than it already is.
Let me explain my lack of enthusiasm for this “support”.
First, who is making this an ADA issue? Everybody whose business is totally accessible (no excuses acceptable here), please step forward. Nobody? Everybody whose nonprofit organizations hold fundraisers only at accessible locations, show yourselves. Hmmm. Still no one. Well then, surely, these are people who supported the Accessibility Advisory Committee when there was one and routinely support ADA issues. Anyone? Still no response.
So, the only other group I know consists of people who have no real ADA knowledge or commitment but who have other goals and hope that creating an ADA issue will help achieve them. Ahhhh! There you are! We’ve met before.
Some of you didn’t like the designer of Queen Anne’s Square, so tried to make it an ADA issue. You yourselves owned businesses that were not then – and are not now – accessible. Some of you objected to sidewalk seating at some restaurants but needed assistance in making that happen. Call on the ADA! Some of you wanted help with ordinances that enhance biking or wanted tree removal. Make it an ADA problem to ensure success.
To those of you making the traffic pattern an accessibility issue, where were you when the Washington Square redesign demolished half the accessibility that existed before? If you were concerned about access, why did it take fifteen years of fighting to get an elevator in City Hall? And why did the lower Broadway project make the entire area inaccessible?
I could go on, but you get the idea.
I know that whenever and however the traffic pattern issue is resolved, you will all go away. Since the same people who designed Washington Square and lower Broadway oversee the Spring Street project, it will involve more bricks and cobblestones and other elements that make access dangerous or even impossible for persons with any mobility impairment and persons who are blind. None of you talking about the traffic pattern will be there to object.
So, call me a cynic. I’ve earned the right.
Every time I try to access a Newport business, I hear excuses about why it just cannot be accessible. I’ve seen announcements of fundraisers held in restaurants and other inaccessible facilities. I worked with the now defunct Accessibility Advisory Committee to educate city officials and city residents to change the city’s accessibility and attitude toward it. I regularly get calls to make problems go away by turning them into ADA issues.
You can’t just play a single card in this game. You need to sit in for the entire hand.