To the Editor:

You are walking in the snow wearing heavy boots. Your feet slide around a little bit in the boot, making walking awkward, uncertain.

The snow is about a foot deep. Partway into the snowpack, a more solid ice layer gives way unevenly. It throws off your gait. You need to pick your knees up higher than usual to clear the top of the snow. You are trying to go quickly, but it is rough going.

You keep going because you need to get there. You can feel your heart rate speed up and your breathing is getting so you are huffing and puffing a little.

That is how it feels to walk up Hutchins Street from the Barbour Realty building to the bus stop on Pleasant Street if you have heart and lung or mobility problems.

The grade of Hutchins Street is acknowledged to not meet ADA-recommended grade for access. The Village Center Apartments project for Hutchins Street will have only one wheelchair-accessible parking site near the entrance. There are more kinds of access needs than just wheelchairs.

People with bad joints, those who can’t walk more than 50 feet because of heart or lung problems, balance impairments and many other less obvious problems make the uphill climb to the municipal lot unfeasible.

The project proposal states, “The site is within walkable distance of all major amenities and the municipal parking area.” The statement is true only for persons who can walk up that hill.

I suppose stopping to rest every few minutes still counts as walkable distance. I suppose there is an official definition of walkable distance, but I suspect that is only for the hale and hearty.

Their proposal states, “One of the one-bedroom units will be fully ADA-accessible and barrier-free and located on the main level of the building. All other units are designed to be both habitable and adaptable, per ADA.”

There are many kinds of ADA-related needs. Access to transportation is a significant need that cannot be adapted for after the building is completed. With only one handicap parking spot close enough to be actually useful, will that result in competition between residents for that one spot?

Laura Nepveu


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