Earlier this week, I had lunch with Ken Fredgren, the hard-working chair of RCA's . Over sandwiches at , we talked about our plans for RCA and RAC in 2012.
Ken told me about the great work he's accomplishing. Ken advocated for the passage of HJR 648, a bill that calls for amendments to Virginia's state building code to improve building access for people with disabilities. And he's now on a statewide committee that will be making recommendations for those amendments. He also told me about RAC's continuing efforts to work with Reston buildings and facilities with the goal of improving access. I was encouraged to hear about his plans.
Then I asked him if there was anything I could do to assist RAC's efforts on behalf of Reston citizens. He told me that what he needs more than anything is additional volunteers to expand his committee's effort. In particular, what he needs is additional project managers.
What does a project manager do? Basically, the project manager performs an evaluation of a shopping center, office park, or commercial building in Reston to determine what improvements are needed to make it more accessible for users with disabilities.
A PM begins by performing a survey of the site, determining whether it is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and with the Fairfax County code. Once the survey is complete, the PM writes up a report describing any deficiencies or discrepancies. Then, he or she schedules a meeting with the facility manager or property owner, where the PM can review the report, explain where the property is not in compliance with the law, and make recommendations for improvement. This work can be done when it's convenient for the PM's schedule, and is typically completed over the space of a month or two.
If you have any interest in accessibility issues, this is a great opportunity for hands-on involvement. If you're the sort of person who likes to help your community and to see a concrete payoff for your work, this is also a great opportunity.
RAC's efforts lead to real results that improve life for our citizens. RAC projects have led to Reston properties adding new wheelchair ramps and curb cuts, more crosswalks, additional accessible parking spaces, automatic entrance doors, and improved signage. These aren't theoretical benefits for future generations; these are actual changes happening right now that have made it easier for Restonians with disabilities to get around in town.
Some of you may be thinking, "But I don't know anything about the American with Disabilities Act or building codes. How can I do this?" Not a problem! RAC will train you in everything you need to know, all the relevant laws, and explain how to conduct a survey and write the report. No experience is necessary; all you need is a willingness to get involved.
Some of you may dread the idea of locking horns with property managers and owners, envisioning a drawn-out battle or getting a bureaucratic runaround. Fortunately, RAC's project managers typically do not encounter that kind of hostility. Yes, there are a few trouble spots, but by and large, the managers and owners have been very willing to meet with RAC and talk about the changes they can make to improve accessibility.
Part of the reason that RAC receives a friendly reception is because they stress a collaborative approach, based on the "3 G's": good will, good faith, and the common good. Many owners and managers realize that it's actually in their best interest to make these changes, since barriers to accessibility wind up costing them business.
Finally, some of you may think, "I don't have a disability. Why should I care about this?" Well, you may not have a disability now, but you or a loved one may someday. If that happens, you'll be thankful for RAC's efforts. Also, even people without disabilities can benefit from some of the accessibility improvements. If you're ever pushing a stroller or a full grocery cart, or if you have arms full of heavy packages, you might be glad for curb cuts and automatic doors.
And even if none of those things apply to you, Reston is a better community when it's accessible to everyone. As our pioneer generation of Restonians gets older and starts to face mobility challenges, we'll all be better off if they are able to stay in Reston for their lifetime.
RAC's goal is to evaluate every shopping center, office park, and building in Reston. They've made a good start of it. And the more volunteers they have available, the closer they can come to their goal. Every new volunteer helps, so why not you?
If you want to know more about RAC or how you can become a project manager, you can visit their website. Ken is a friendly guy, and he will be more than happy to address any questions you might have.
I'm proud to support Ken and RAC in everything they do. They're doing their part to make Reston a better place to live, work, and play. I hope you will step up and lend them a hand.