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A message from Commissioner McCosh: Changes since March

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Disabilities Commission

A weekly message from Commissioner McCosh in support of the local disability community.

Dear Disability Community Members, 

Last week we passed the six-month mark since Governor Baker declared a State of Emergency in Massachusetts, another milestone in our new reality under COVID-19. When the Governor made this declaration back on March 10, I don’t think many of us imagined it would still be in effect in the fall.
 
As you know all too well at this point, we have each made great sacrifices in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus - and our sacrifices have paid off! Rates of COVID-19 remain low in most cities and towns throughout the state. But we’re not out of the woods just yet.
 
Public Health officials recently advised people to “hunker down” for the fall and winter because they are concerned about people coming down with the flu and the coronavirus at the same time - a “twindemic” that would be especially dangerous for individuals with disabilities (this is a great reminder to get a flu shot!).
 
So it looks like things will still be scaled back for a while. Many businesses have reopened, albeit with social distancing and new protocols for safety. City Hall still has limited hours and requires members of the public to make appointments if they need to come in. Our department is still working remotely, so I wanted to provide some updates on what’s happened over the last six months: 

  • Our Disability Commission Advisory Board meetings are now being held remotely. We stopped having in-person meetings in City Hall in March, and this will continue indefinitely for now. While we are disappointed that we’re not able to get together in person, having our meetings online makes it easier for more people to attend! We encourage each of you to join our virtual Advisory Board meetings. The next one will be on Wednesday, September 23, and we will post the link to the meeting in next week's newsletter.
  • All of our employees have been working from home since the middle of March and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Our staff are checking their email and voicemail messages every day and have been getting back to constituents thoroughly and promptly. All of our programs and services are still up and running!
  • Our Accessible Parking Space program is still operating and accepting new applications! We do ask that during this public health emergency that applications be either emailed to disability@boston.gov or faxed to 617-635-2726. Currently, any applications that are sent through postal mail can only be picked up from City Hall by staff once a month, so there may be a delay in the review and processing.
  • When restaurants started to reopen and provide outside dining, we collaborated with the Architectural Access Board, the Boston Licensing Board and many other City Departments to ensure accessibility in the public realm. This resulted in our portable wheelchair ramp distribution program, which has provided roughly 75 portable wheelchair ramps for free to Boston restaurants who expanded their seating into parking spaces throughout the city. Our program got attention in the news and we continue to advise and provide ramps to restaurants as more open. 
  • Our staff continue to be involved with architectural access throughout the City. Construction in the City was paused due to COVID-19, but now that work has started back up again our office continues to review plans and provide external and internal agencies with technical assistance. If you’d like to get involved in advocating for accessibility in Boston, you are welcome to attend the virtual community meeting discussing the Master Plan for Boston Common, on September 16 at 6 pm. 

Until next week, please stay informed, go explore, get involved, and stay safe.

Sincerely,

Commissioner Kristen McCosh