The ADA In Westport: 30 Years Of Progress

Thirty years ago this week, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act into law.

It was a monumental achievement. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, transportation and more.

Its effects have been both intended (curb cuts make things easier for wheelchair users; closed captioning aids people with hearing loss) and unintended (those same curb cuts help anyone pushing a stroller or wheeling luggage; closed captions are great for TVs in noisy spots like restaurants and bars.

In Westport — as in the rest of the nation — the ADA has made building access easier. At Compo Beach, Mobi-Mats intended to ease the trek across sand to the Sound for people with mobility problems has been a boon to anyone hauling a cooler (or young kids).

Compo Beach Mobi-Mat. (Photo/Patti Brill)

The new bathrooms at South Beach are a welcome relief to many. So are the walkways that now lead from the pavilion all the way to the kayak launch.

Jim Ross — chair of Westport’s Commission on People With Disabilities — notes a few other important local initiatives.

The Remarkable Theater‘s drive-in movies have brought joy and life to Westport during this entertainment-starved COVID summer. But the theater has another, equally important mission: to create meaningful employment for the disability community. That visibility may be another legacy of the ADA.

The confidential Voluntary Registry — managed by Westport’s Department of Human Services, in conjunction with the Police Department — enables individuals with disabilities, and their families or caregivers, to register medical and living arrangements, so it can be known during a police or fire emergency.

Town officials and disability leaders are working to secure independent housing facilities on town-owned property.

An “Employment is for Everyone” initiative is in its early stages. Ross’ commission is working with the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Downtown Merchants Association to help people with disabilities find employment here — and help Westport businesses better serve the disability community.

When a beach wheelchair was delivered more than 10 years ago, then-Parks & Rec director Stuart McCarthy gave Rotary president Irwin Lebish a ride.

It is estimated that up to 1 in 5 Americans have some sort of disability. Have you, a relative or friend been impacted by the ADA? How does Westport compare to other places, in terms of accessibility and accommodations? Are there areas where Westport can do better? Click “Comments” below.

(For more on the 30th anniversary of the ADA, click here. Hat tips: Diane Johnson and Elaine Daignault.)

9 responses to “The ADA In Westport: 30 Years Of Progress

  1. Charles Taylor

    I worked with Senator Bill Frost and the Arthritis Foundation to help get the ADA passed!

  2. Joseph Anastasi

    Great Work Jim!!! Wonderful story

    Joe

    Joseph Anastasi

    Employment Services

    STAR, INC. – Lighting The Way!

    182 Wolfpit Ave, Norwalk CT. 06851

    C: 203.216.6395

    E: janastasi@starct.org

    http://www.starct.org

    [https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/yaAfD8VmGzS_iB4wUk2PzhvNJvVTXnRtu5Z_yQngk8x0yihxxqZgHOQgZDKjT5vcEKnB3lE=s103]

    ________________________________

  3. Joyce Barnhart

    I remember bringing my toddlers in a stroller to the Y in the early 70’s and thinking that access would be impossible for anyone in a wheelchair. Now, with my mobility limited a bit by arthritis, I am so grateful to the ADA for the accommodations that we can now take for granted. Looking at some historic buildings I wonder why it took so long – didn’t people have limitations 100 years ago? I am so glad we finally got smart.

  4. Leslie Roberts Wolf

    I grew up with a brother with disabilities- sixty years ago. My parents and siblings fought all of the same fights. The endless advocating for services is still required sixty years later. Every small step helps and is applauded. The most important things is to have long-term living options available for young adults of every financial situation. Good job Westport- keep it going please.
    I love the Remarkable Theater and the mission.

  5. Kimberly Greenberg

    Thanks for sharing this do you know where I call to register a family member?

    Thanks, Kim

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  6. Thank you Dan for covering this important legislation! The Town of Westport, together with The Commission on People with Disabilities, is committed to ensuring that Westport is a town where people with disabilities have the equal opportunity and the support to enjoy full and equal access to lives of independence, productivity, inclusion, and self-determination. The role of the Commission is to look at all aspects of the town and its resources, engaging in public dialogue and creating opportunities for understanding, advocacy, and community responses to the needs of all of its residents.

    We meet monthly on the third Thursday of the month. For more information on the Commission, go to https://www.westportct.gov/government/appointed-boards-a-z/commission-on-people-with-disabilities or email us at COPWD@westportct.gov.

  7. John Huminski played a big role in making Compo Beach more accessible to people with disabilities. Great guy.

  8. Mark L Yurkiw

    I was finally able to take a friend down to the beach and wheel him along water’s edge in the beach wheelchair last summer. It was wonderful.

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