Accessibility takes center stage in the City of Brotherly Love
Blog 14, October 2022
Philadelphia is the cradle of U.S. freedom, providing a fitting backdrop to the U.S. Access Board's recent town hall meeting. Ten presidentially appointed Access Board members and representatives from various federal member agencies were present to hear from the local community about the state of accessibility in Philadelphia, covering a host of topics including housing, transportation, recreation and outdoor areas, and design for neurodiversity.
Access Board chair Taryn Williams, assistant secretary of labor for Disability Employment Policy, and Katy Kale, the deputy administrator for the General Services Administration, attended. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Amy Nieves, executive director at Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, both spoke at the event.
Addressing the needs of people with disabilities, according to Phil Bratta, public affairs specialist with the U.S. Access Board, begins with listening.
“Hearing from members of the local community about the state of accessibility in the Philadelphia region gives the board a chance to hear, firsthand, about accessibility experiences and issues facing the community and how the board might address them,” said Bratta, who coordinated the event.
Accessibility is vital to independent living, of course. Automatic doors, installed and maintained with this in mind, support independence and give people with disabilities the chance to live, work, and play on their own terms.
Members of the public, including many from the disabled community, turned out in force to the town hall. Community members raised specific concerns, including a lack of accessibility at a local post office and the low inventory of affordable, accessible housing. Chair Williams noted that many of the issues facing this area of Pennsylvania are common to the rest of the country.
Mayor Kenney delivered prepared remarks and praised the efforts of the Access Board to engage with local communities. Kenney also noted that the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities is available to help.
Office director Nieves discussed a five-year ADA transition plan to bring the city in compliance. She also outlined a map of disability characteristics in Philadelphia, created to increase awareness and encourage community organizations, businesses, and individuals to engage with those experiencing disabilities and other physical challenges.
The town hall culminated two days of learning and training sessions sponsored by the Access Board, focused on a variety of topics, including an overview of ADA and ABA accessibility standards, accessible information and communication technology, and accessible historic buildings and facilities (appropriate as Philadelphia is a city steeped in history).
The Access Board is committed to advancing accessibility for all in the built environment and with information and communication technology. To this end, the board will continue holding town hall meetings across the country. These meetings are open to the public. More information about upcoming events is posted on the board's events page.