Categories: Editorials

Guest Op-Ed: Revitalizing Accessibility: Winthrop’s Commission on Disabilities Enhances Community Inclusion

By Hannah Belcher

Winthrop’s Commission on Disabilities (CoD) has reorganized and revitalized their mission of accessibility, access, and inclusion for all residents of Winthrop, regardless of any disabilities they may have. The Commission is a 7-member advisory committee that makes decisions on handicap parking requests, the use of funding generated through handicap parking violations, ways to increase accessibility for all, and opportunities for public outreach and education related to disabilities. The commission is a wealth of knowledge and experience, with commissioners having a variety of personal and professional backgrounds in the accessibility space including professional advocacy, at a local and national level. Commissioner John Morgan highlights the importance of the commission in stating “When I learned I was going to be blind, the hardest thing was to admit that I was going to be disabled.  Acceptance is the most difficult thing. But for anyone with a disability, you are not alone.” John offers a monthly low-vision group and is very active on the commission, and like many of the WCOD members, has a personal connection to his involvement on this board. ““It’s an honor to serve on this commission, and to be able to reach out to and support people with disabilities of all ages by providing resources and information to make our town more inclusive and accessible.”, stated commission Chair Karla Murphy, “Winthrop is a beautiful town, and our goal is to ensure it can be enjoyed by everyone.”

The CoD has recently published a comprehensive resource guide with information for people of all ages and disability types to help educate the community on programs and resources available to them. The guide touches on disability rights, options for accessible living arrangements, service agencies, support groups, and many other topics. The guide is available in physical and digital formats. Physical copies can be obtained in the Town Clerk’s office, The Senior Center, and by request to the Commission. The digital version is available on the town website and by the QR code below. 

In addition to the published resource guide, the Commission has held a series of talks hosted by commissioners Kathleen Kane and Jon Rodis. These talks have tackled complicated topics such as Power of Attorney considerations, social security, and navigating insurance. “The presentations are a means for Jon and I to educate about services, resources, and strategies for disabled individuals and for the greater Winthrop community.”, says Kathleen, continuing with “We’re happy to share the information we’ve gathered over the years of our advocacy for the disabled.”

 The talk series concluded on June 5th with a talk on Advocacy that will covered several topics including self-advocacy and medical advocacy – topics that are heavily relevant for individuals or caretakers of people with disabilities but also important for all individuals that have touch points with medical care. Town Council Vice President and Council liaison to the CoD Hannah Belcher stated “This talk series has been incredible – the resources we have right here among our own community are amazing. I hope that everyone recognizes the widespread applicability of these topics and the importance of learning how to advocate before you actually need to.”

The Commission is also in the midst of planning their first large scale event – Accessible Adventures: A Day of Recreation at Deer Island. The event will take place on August 24th at Deer Island and include a “learn to fish” component, accessible bike rides around the harbor walk on recumbent bicycles or rides by TrikeHub pedicabs, other activities, and resource tables – all made fully accessible, so everyone is able to enjoy. The event is being planned in partnership with the Friends of Winthrop Beach.

Hannah Belcher is the Town Council Vice President and represents Precinct 3.

Transcript Staff

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