There was a time, less than five years ago, when Amherst had nearly 50 accessibility problems among its own buildings for people with disabilities. That’s not the case any longer.
Now, Amherst is the place where residents can find recreational opportunities such as “adaptive tennis” and access most town buildings without difficulty.
More top administrators have received daylong disability-awaremess training, and plans are in the works to have more employees trained in 2013.
David V. Whalen, chairman of the Amherst Committee on Disabilities, told the Town Board on Monday that Amherst has come a long way in four years.
Compared with many other towns that have made little, if any, progress in recent decades with accessibility compliance, he said, “We are way ahead of the curve.”
That wasn’t always the case.
In 2008, a town self-evaluation of its adherence to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act led to concerns about townwide compliance with federal law. But nearly all of those have since been rectified, said Building Commissioner Thomas C. Ketchum.
Through a disability-awareness program offered to town employees free of charge by Niagara University, with support from the Dan D’Andrea Charitable Trust, those serving as town ADA coordinators receive daylong training sessions, while all other employees would be eligible for shorter, two-hour disability-awareness programs at no cost.
So far, the Amherst Committee on Disabilities has worked with top administrators in the Police, Town Clerk, and Youth and Recreation departments. The committee also is working on putting together updated reports on accessibility at the Northtown Center and the Harlem Road Community Center, Whalen said.
But the biggest push for next year is more comprehensive disability-awareness training for all Amherst town employees, Whalen said. That kind of training can only add to the sensitivity and appreciation of the town’s diversity.
Employees in the Town of Hamburg and the City of Buffalo, as well as some with Erie County government, already have taken advantage of the sessions. It’s time for Amherst to step up to the plate, he said.
Board members expressed appreciation for the committee’s work Monday and support for further employee training.
The Amherst Committee on Disabilities also wants to undertake an evaluation of town park accessibility next year, Whalen said.
“We’ve got a lot of really good things going,” he said. “We just need to take it to the next level.”