Architect Josh Safdie presents the report to the Select Board.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- The town has to devote some time and money to making sure municipal services are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Select Board this week heard the results of a self-evaluation that the town conducted with help from Kessler McGuinness & Associates, a Newton architecture firm.
"The expectation of the outcome is not that all of the town's facilities will be 100 percent barrier-free or accessible," explained Josh Safdie, a principal at KMA. "The obligation is to make sure all your programs and services are accessible … to make sure no one is discriminated against to receive a service or participate in a program because of their disability."
A good example is the town's hiking trails, which may not have adequate handicapped-accessible parking spaces marked but may not, as a practical matter, need them.
"Although the strict reading of the code would say you should provide accessible parking there, it has limited value," Safdie said.
"From a program accessibility standpoint, if there was a place people could go and experience something of an equivalent experience in terms of being out in nature, that would be great as a long-term goal."
Town Manager Jason Hoch told the board that he was unable to find a similar self-assessment and complementary transition plan in the town's records, and he is surprised how many towns do not have one considering the ADA dates back to 1991.
Some of the findings in the self-assessment are relatively easy to address, Hoch said.
"A lot of the policy pieces, it's a matter of codifying and documenting things," he said. "We serve people in a variety of ways, but there's no document you can point to. … It's a matter of making sure everyone's thought through what those accommodations are and what the resources we have available are."
Other items on the town's punch list are infrastructure, including repairs to a ramp at the back of town hall, a re-graded ramp at the front of the building, additional handicapped accessible spots at the North Street site and the renovation of bathrooms to make them accessible.
"KMA recommends establishing a long-term capital improvement plan to undertake architectural barrier removal at municipal facilities in a prioritized sequence," the self-assessment report reads, in part. "KMA also recommends establishing accessible design management protocols to ensure full compliance in all new construction and alterations."
Safdie said that ADA compliance issues are not uncommon, even in municipal buildings. And just because the town has identified its areas of noncompliance, it is under no more -- and no less -- obligation to address them.
"I've been an architect for 20 years, and I've never audited a fully compliant building in the state," Safdie said.
"Eventually, this plan becomes yours, and it's up to the town to see it through. It's important to understand that you have no greater obligation now that you have a completed draft plan. … It's a standing obligation that has been on the books since 1990. We're just helping the town focus. There will be no regulatory body knocking on your door."
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