Tuesday, August 29, 2006

6.2 Million Dollar Porter Sq. Plaza MAAB Complaint Filed

The City's response to the MAAB's request for information was due Friday, August 25th. I filed the complaint due to numerous complaints that the Wheelchair Ramp and other features were not compliant with the ADA. The ADA is a Federal Civil Rights Law that states that no one should be excluded from all the benifits the City offers because of their disability. Here in Massachusetts, we have in the Building Code, Chapter 11: Accessibility ; "(780 CMR 11 is Entirely Unique to Massachusetts)" that states "all public buildings shall be designed to be accessible to, functional for and safe for the use by physically handicapped persons." By definition, Porter Sq. Plaza is a building open to the public.

The photo above shows folks enjoying the newly opened Plaza. The Wheelchair Ramp is behind the tree, between the stairs and the wall, and takes folks for whom stairs are a barrier up to Mass Ave, the Red Line Station to the left, and the MBTA Bus to the right. The issue is; was the ramp designed and built in compliance with Massachusettes Architectural Access Board Rules and Regulations?

Below is a photo showing how close the rocks are to the foot of the ramp. The ramp must have a landing that is the width of the ramp by 60." Measurements between the railings show the width to be 65" but it was difficult to find the foot of the ramp. A ramp is defined as having a running slope greater than 1:20 but no greater than or equal to 1:12. Also, the ramp cannot exceed 30' without having a landing, or resting place, to breakup the long, steep decent. So, the issue here is, where does the ramp end, and the landing at the bottom begin? In other words, is the ramp too long? After several measurements to document the gradual slope I found the foot of the ramp to be aproximately 23" longer than the 30' allows, and aproximately 20" from the rocks, which are clearly intruding into the landing area at the foot of the ramp.

The railing must extend 12" beyond the slope of the ramp, to allow for folks to transion safely from the slope of the ramp onto the landing. The photo shows the railing ending before the ramp ends. This also results in another violation, as the walkway that enters the landing now has a non compliant cross slope. Also, a newly built walkway must be 48" wide.

Below is what it looks like when approaching from the bottom. The upside is clear, but when coming down, a wheelchair or "scooter" would not have enough room at the foot of the ramp, and would either be forced to change directions while still on the steep ramp, or run into the rocks. This is a bigger problem for folks with ambulatory disabilities, as they would have to angle across the cross slope without a railing to help steady them. One can only imagine this challenge in the winter!
This complaint was filed on behalf of everyone, but especially for folks who are blind or legally blind, or with other vision impairments, as I have been informed that there are numerous design elements at Porter Sq. Plaza that is hazardous for them. It is hard for me to believe the City would approve of such a dangerous design. There are many options that would have made this an enjoyable experience for everyone. For example, the ramp could have been placed in the center, with the stairs on either side. This could also have been less expensive, as the railing could have been shared by the stairway and ramp.

After the MAAB recieves the City's response to their request for informaion, the MAAB will determine if they have jurisdiction. In order to investigate, and order that the violations be corrected, the MAAB must first determine if they have jurisdiction. Stay tuned....

UPDATE: Friday September 8th, '06: I have just heard from the MAAB that the City has requested a 30 day extension to respond to this complaint. Here we go again.....

Monday, August 21, 2006

Was The Asphalt Walkway in Dana Park Installed Properly?

Here is a section of Dana Park under re-construction. you can see markings on the old asphalt path and parts of the original grass. Some of the new stones that were incorporated into the new design are seen where they have been dropped. This curvy marking looks like it could be where they added a bench. The benches are set into the landscaping, so there is no space next to them where a person who uses a wheelchair or a scooter could sit.

This photo shown the asphalt being laid. The work site here is a mess, with uneven ground that even has truck tire tracks in it. It is no wonder that the result is an uneven surface that hes "Differential Displacement" a term used by Tariq during a Cambridge Commission for persons With disabilities meeting. What it means is without a proper foundation, the pathway will have uneven settling. a person who has difficulty walking, or who needs to use a walking aid such as a cane or a walker, will have a devil of a time traversing the multiple planes, and multiple angles.

Here is a detail I enlarged from another photo, to show the thickness, or should I say thinness, or the asphalt. Are they laying this right on the dirt? I wonder because at no time did I see them constructing the layers, or foundation my Dad constructed, when he put in his driveway and walkway years ago. A proper foundation is necessary, just like a sidewalk, or the result will be uneven settling, and constant and expensive maintenance, as we live in an area with seasonal changes, especially snow and ice. The above construction of this path in our dearly beloved Dana Park is a recipe for excluding persons who have difficulty walking, and/or use walking aids.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Uneven Walkway in Dana Park Results In Pooling of Water

One needs boots to walk on the walkway in Dana Park whenever we have even a little rain. This pooling of water is caused by the uneven surface of the walkway. The asphalt was put down on the dirt, and disparate setteling cause low spots, which fill with water, and even mud that runs off from the grassy area. I want the City to repave with a smooth surface.

The top photo shows the walkway to the park entrance at Magazine St and Lawrence St. The second photo, immediately above, cruns past one of the little hills in the Park. The photo below shows the walkway at the "pavilian" area, filled with mant puddles!!

What a shame!

Pearl St at Decatur

This was the condition of the sidewalk on Pearl St at Decatur when I fell on it and was unable to get up. Neighbours rushed to assist me, but still I was unable to get up. Someone called an ambulence. Folks told me that another person had fallen in this same spot and was also taken to the Hospital in an ambulence, and told me I should sue the City. The ambulance came and refused to allow my service dog to accompany me. I was placed on a streacher, and it was lifted into the ambulence. The expression on my dog's face was so painful to see, she was literally beside herself, and trying to stay with me. One of my neighbours took my service dog back to my home, and tied her in the yard. The ambulence took me to the hostipal.

In the emergency room I was wheeled to a nice spacious space, and the Dr came and ordered exrays of my ankle. While I was waiting fior the results another woman was brought in, who had also fallen on the sidewalk. She told me she didn't see the hole she stepped in because it was covered with leaves. I was fitted with a small leg brace and crutches, and sent home in a taxi. However, I was in severe pain, which was unrelenting, and I called the Cambridge Commission for persons Wioth disabilities, to get a temp HP permit. The process was explained to me, and one aspect was the City's program required a 2 week wait. So, I want to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and got a temp HP permit in one hour.

I did not recover as hoped, for a long time, and the result of Physical Therapy was to make it worse not better. When they applied ice, tears flowed profusely down my face. I was unable to perform many of the exercizes without experiencing severe pain, and they scolded me for being lazy, and not following the routine. As I write this now, I remember how cruel they were, and never showed any understanding that perhaps, indeed, I was unable to do certain exercizes. Finally, an MRI of my neck was ordered, and the result was a one and a half page document filled with "remarkable" "events." I had a number of pre-existing conditions, including osteo-arthritis, spondelosis, bulging disks, etc. I also had three new fractures in my cervical vertebra. My physical therapy was terminated, and i was subsequantly dxed with cervical radiculitis. Inflamation of the nerve roots in the bones of the neck.

Gee, doctoor, I said, all this time I have been telling you my pain was rediculous, and I was just mispronouncing it! LOL You just gotta laugh at this! I want to emphasize, I was already disabled, and the fall did not cause my multiple disabilities, but it sure complicated it. In order to treat the inflamation of the nerve roots, an antiflamitory was needed, a medication I am not allowewd to take. I applied for, and was granted both a "permanent" HP plackard, and a HP space in front of my house. I continue to use a service dog, which is great for me, as I cannot hold onto canes and things, as the pain is not fwelt in the neck, but in the arms and legs. for example, one day I might have a "broken arm," of course, the arm is not broken, but the inflamed nerves in the neck send the signal to the nerve endings, and it can be different nerve roots at different times. This is also why I can't stand any josteling, or vibrations of any kind, so I don't use a "scooter."

I write this not to elicit sympathy, but to explain how serious injuries can be for people with disabilities. I was unable to 'catch myself" when I "lost my balance" on this section of the sidewalk, and the already terrible condition sustained severe injury unlike a "kid" might sustain. That is why, In Massachussetts, there is a section of the Building Code, 780 CMP Chapter 11, which "provides that all public buildings shall be designed to be accessible to, functional for and safe for the use by physically handicapped persons, in conformance with the Massachusettes Architectural Access Board's rules and Regulations (521 CMR) listed in Appendix A and promulgated by the Architectural Access Board, Executive Office of Public Safety." This quote is ferom the "code" shown to me yesterday in the City's inspectional services/building office. I had a copy made, for my scrap book!!

Although I fell in late 2002, and recieved my temp HP permit with an expiration date of 04/03/03, the sidewalk wher I fell was still not fixed when i took the photo above, on August 17, 2004!!

I took the photo, after I called DPW and Mayor sullivan's office to complain that the City's sidewalk repair program had skipped this known danger, and I wanted it fixed. The Mayor's aid did add this to the "list" and the City did come back an repaire it. But they "fixed it wrong." Although they fixed the crack, and straightened out the curb stones, they failed to correct the verticle displacement and the cross slope. Also, they ignored the fact that there was no level landing at the top of the curb ramp. This meant one would have multiple "challenges" in the built up environment to hurdle to avoid injury, and which presents an especial danger to one who already has physical disability.

I am very tired now, and must post this and soak in the hot water. Please leave any comments, and if you see some mistale I have made, please bring it to my attention right away.

Thursday, August 10, 2006