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Accessibility Group Forms in Burlington

February 14, 2012

BURLINGTON – The Vermont Center for Independent Living announces the formation of the Burlington Access Focus Group to improve access for people with disabilities in downtown Burlington.

A recent compliance review by the U.S. Department of Justice of several Church Street Marketplace restaurants, as well as the publication of new DOJ standards for achieving accessibility, have spurred this group of community partners and citizens into action.

The Burlington Access Group is bringing together citizens, city government and local businesses to remove physical barriers experienced by people using wheelchairs, walkers and strollers, and increase access to programs and services for people who are Blind, Deaf, may have developmental disabilities, or compromised immune systems.

Sarah Launderville, VCIL’s executive director, said, “Twenty years after the Americans with Disabilities Act, VCIL still receives calls from upset Vermonters and disappointed vacationers who cannot access local businesses. We hope that by bringing people together now, more small businesses will become accessible and more people will spend their money supporting our local economy.”

Assessments are being conducted. Specific areas not meeting compliance with the ADA are being identified for enforcement. Sam Abel-Palmer, staff attorney with the Disability Law Project at Vermont Legal Aid, notes, “Accessibility has been the law for businesses and local governments for more than 20 years. The first goal is always to work together to achieve voluntary compliance. When that doesn’t work, we need to look toward legal enforcement to ensure equal access for all people.”

Burlington really needs to step up and take action, said former downtown resident Ian Smith. He recently relocated to Colchester because he feared for his safety when walking the few blocks from his Queen City apartment to the co-op. “People were always bumping into me and my guide dog on Church Street. Some even yelled at me, asking if I was blind or something.”I am blind!”

Business owners and individuals interested in joining the Burlington Access Focus Group should contact Mike Charron at VCIL: 1 800-639-1522 or or 1-800-639-1522.