What were you watching on TV Monday night? If you were tuned in to the Resdkins-Cowboys game, you missed out. If you'd been tuned in to the RCA Board meeting on Comcast Channel 28, you would have seen Ken Fredgren, chair of RCA's Reston Accessibility Committee (RAC), talking about how his community has made Reston a better place to live. For those of you who couldn't tear yourselves away from the game, this week I'm going to talk about RAC, what they've accomplished, and how you can help.
In 2008, RCA held a community forum on accessibility and visitability (that is, the ability of Restonians with disabilities to get around and to comfortably visit the homes of others). The turnout was tremendous (so great, in fact, that we could barely fit everyone in the room), and we quickly realized that this was an issue that was very important in Reston. As a result, we formed RAC, which has been under Ken's able leadership ever since.
RAC's focus is on making sure that Restonians with disabilities can get around and have the same level of access to buildings and facilities that people without disabilities do.
A lot of people believe that America solved this problem by passing the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, but that's hardly the case. Enforcement has been slow, and many older buildings have been exempt from the ADA's provisions.
People with disabilities have the same need for access, whether a building was constructed in 1911 or 2011. So RAC has been working hard to improve access throughout Reston. And their work has produced real results at shopping centers and office parks throughout our community.
What kind of results? These are a few of the projects that RAC has completed in its three-plus years of existence:
Home Depot (on Baron Cameron Dr.): Relocated accessible parking spaces, added access aisles and a crosswalk, and replaced noncompliant signs.
Hunters Woods Village Center: Added two accessible parking spaces, an access aisle, curb cuts, and crosswalks.
Reston Corner (home of RA's new headquarters): Added automatic entrance doors, added access aisles and curb ramps, and replaced noncompliant signs.
Sunrise Valley Center (on Sunrise Valley Dr. near Soapstone): Replaced two existing curb ramps with properly-sloped ramps. This is an important one, because if there is a curb ramp but it's too steep for someone in a wheelchair to use, it's not very helpful.
The Spectrum: Added handicapped-accessible parking spaces and relocated some to a more useful location, added access aisles, curb ramps, and a crosswalk.
These are just some of RAC's accomplishments; you can go to the Project Summary on their website to learn more.
How has RAC achieved all this? Well, the first thing that they do is to survey retail establishments and offices in Reston to figure out how access can be improved. (They also look for examples of great accessibility, in order to spotlight them.) When they identify an area where access could be better, RAC gets in touch with the owners or property managers to talk with them about specific fixes that could be made to make the properties more accessible.
Ken's committee always reaches out to the property owners and managers first and tries to work with them collaboratively, stressing what RAC calls the "3 G's": good will, good faith, and the common good. Only as a last resort will RAC file complaints with the appropriate government agencies if the property management refuses to make improvements that are required by law. Fortunately, almost every property owner and manager RAC has worked with has been highly responsive and willing to make changes for the good of the community.
RAC's work has obviously benefitted Restonians with disabilities. But their work also benefits people without disabilities. For instance, those curb ramps aren't just good for people in wheelchairs; they also help folks pushing strollers and shopping carts, as well as delivery people with dollies. And crosswalks help everyone cross the streets more safely.
And if you don't have a disability now, you or someone in your family might some day. RAC's work dovetails nicely with Supervisor Hudgins' Reston for a Lifetime group; these fixes make it easier for our citizens to stay in Reston as they get older and have a harder time getting around.
So, how can you help RAC? By becoming a member. Ken is always looking for new members, whether you're able to help out on projects, provide contributions, or offer professional experience and advice to help out on RAC projects. And if you know of some buildings or facilities in Reston that could use improved access, get in touch with Ken and let him know.
RAC is just one of the RCA committees doing good work in the community. In the coming week, I'll spotlight some of the others.