At this week's RCA Board meeting, we had the pleasure of hearing from one of RCA's hardest-working and most dedicated volunteers: Ken Fredgren, chair of RCA's Reston Accessibility Committee. Ken presented an update on RAC's work in making Reston a better place for people with disabilities.
Since RAC does a lot of its work behind the scenes, many of RAC's achievements came as news to the Board. Since RAC has been doing so much in recent months, I thought it would be worthwhile to share the news with all of you.
Those of you who are familiar with RAC (or have read my previous blog posts on the subject) know that the committee performs much of its work in the form of accessibility assessments. RAC project managers survey an office park, shopping center, or building and determine what improvements are needed to make the facility more accessible for customers with disabilities.
Last month, RAC completed its latest accessibility assessment, of South Lkes Village Center. For the first time, RAC is including pictures with its report, in order to provide visual evidence of areas requiring improvement. Ken and I both agree that the pictures dramatically improve the visual impact of the report.
RAC submitted its assessment to CBRE, which owns the village center, and Ken reported that his contact at CBRE has responded in a positive manner. I am optimistic that RAC and CBRE will work together to develop a plan for making changes. And I look forward to seeing RAC's effort pay off in making South Lakes Village Center a much more accessible place.
Ken also updated the Board on another project that's finally come to fruition thanks to the persistence of Ken and RAC. In 2009, RAC completed an assessment on the Sunset Hills Professional Center, a low-rise office complex near the forthcoming Wiehle Metro station. Unfortunately, the property managers of that complex were far less agreeable than most of the people RAC works with, and they declined to make the suggested improvements. This office complex houses many medical professionals, some of whose patients may very well have mobility issues, so their recalcitrance was both puzzling and discouraging.
After getting nowhere in years of effort, Ken finally filed a disability rights complaint with Fairfax County's Office of Human Rights and Equity Programs in 2011. The County investigated the situation, and this month, the asphalt and sidewalks in the complex were modified to bring them into compliance with the law. It took almost three years, but Ken and RAC refused to give up, and the resulting changes will be a big boon to patients with disabilities.
On a happier note, Ken met with Edens & Avant, who recently purchased the Hunters Woods Village Center. RAC performed an assessment on Hunters Woods two years ago, and secured several important improvements, including new acccessible parking spaces and crosswalks. E&A plans to revamp the center, and Ken wanted to ensure that the improvements that RAC achieved are not lost in the renovation. Happily, representatives from E&A confirmed that the improvements will remain, and the design team will look for ways to include even more accessible spaces in the redesign.
Ken also updated us on the accessibility work group he's been on down in Richmond. I mentioned this in the last blog I did on RAC. The work group finished up a couple of months ago, and what they produced is impressive: they authored seven proposed changes to Virginia's statewide building code and a draft bill for the General Assembly, all aimed at improving accessibility for people with disabilities.
Now that the work product is complete, the next challenge will be getting it passed. Ken Plum has promised to support the bill in the General Assembly, where we hope it will find broad support. As for the building code changes, the state's Board of Housing and Community Development will hold hearings on them in August and September. If the Board approves the changes, they will become part of the state building code, which developers will have to follow.
As you can see, Ken Fredgren and RAC have been quite busy in recent months. And I'm proud to support and trumpet their efforts on behalf of the community.
In order to raise awareness of the issues related to accessibility, RAC and RCA will be sponsoring a community forum sometime this fall. The forum will be called "Accessibility: A Call to Action." The exact details of the forum have yet to be worked out, but you'll be able to learn more about RAC's work, and you'll learn how you can support RAC in its mission to improve life for people with disabilities here in Reston -- and beyond!
Many of you have heard of Margaret Mead's famous quote: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." RAC is a shining example of the truth of that statement. A small group of committed Restonians has been working hard for four years to improve our quality of life. I'm proud to say that they're working under RCA's umbrella. And as long as I'm able, I will continue to assist RAC in changing Reston for the good.
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