“This is our Boardwalk! Hurry, Hurry, see the Historic Sandwich Boardwalk, before it’s gone!”
This is the start of the Friends of the Sandwich Boardwalk guest commentary. That may be well and good, but since the start of the 1995 Americans with Disabilities Act, the disability access for this boardwalk has been ignored.
What is the Americans with Disabilities Act, you may ask? This is to allow the basic access for those that are disabled to access structures, just as a normal person would. As it is, it is NOT “our Boardwalk” as seniors, and the disabled had been intentionally denied access. I say intentional, as there has been no effort to make the boardwalk accessible until now.
An Accessibility Study was done on the Town of Sandwich, funded by the Massachusetts Commission on Disabilities, and all town structures, had deficiencies. The boardwalk was the worst. This, with even a basic walker being used, would be deemed hazardous, let alone an electric wheelchair. Even seniors with a cane are afraid to use the boardwalk now. Without widening the boardwalk, maintaining the proper slope, and providing rails, this structure would not pass another accessibility inspection.
Why is passing the accessibility inspection so important? First off, it is the right thing to do. To allow the seniors and the disabled access to all the town’s structures, and programs (yes, this is a civil right). In addition, all the commonwealth and federal funding that the town receives could be placed in jeopardy, if not done.
As a result, the town has made a dramatic effort to correct the deficiencies found in the Accessibility Study. Some of those include access to our beaches, access to the town’s website, and access to the town’s city hall itself (which will greatly improve, with the future opening of the new town hall). Therefore, the future plans of the boardwalk, include widening it, adding railings, and having a slope that meets building codes/ADA compliancy. This is all to meet ADA guidelines, architectural, and building codes.
Yet there are complaints against it. One is the aesthetic value. I would ask those that complain about the aesthetic value, what if you did not have your sight to see it? Then if someone said to you, “You have no business going out on the boardwalk, because of your disability!” Guess what, that is one of a few Facebook posts I have received about the disabled on the boardwalk. It gives a whole new meaning of the phrase, “Friends of the Boardwalk.”
In these days of civil rights conflicts, do we need a conflict here in Sandwich? We need to include the elderly and the disabled in this Friends of the Boardwalk. We cannot exclude them any longer. Any historical committee now sees that this is not just about preserving the past, but changing the past to include those with disabilities in the future, to allow the disabled to enjoy the historical structures here, not to continue to prevent, and exclude them.
More importantly, it is just the right thing to do.