Residents: More accessible parking needed

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BRATTLEBORO — Downtown shops and restaurants are missing out on substantial business because of accessibility problems that continue to plague the downtown area, members of the Brattleboro Americans with Disabilities Act Advisory Committee said Friday.

The town-appointed group unveiled the results of a survey that it took of residents, who said they wanted to shop or visit restaurants on Main and Elliot streets, but often couldn't. They said they would often have to go elsewhere because of the lack of accessible parking. Residents said they had to either head to other areas of town, or Keene, N.H., businesses, or resort to Amazon, the enemy of downtown business areas all over the country, because of the accessibility issue.

"I spend thousands of dollars a year on Amazon because I can't get there," said Brattleboro resident Robin Scudder, who has a disability.

The committee, and several members of the disabled community, had critical words for the town, the local chamber of commerce and the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance for not paying attention to their concerns. The survey also said 100 percent of those surveyed said the lack of parking prevented them from going to a downtown activity or doing an errand. Scudder said she had attended a Brattleboro Select Board meeting last August to complain about the parking problem, and to date, nothing had been done.

Scudder, who can only get around with the aid of two canes, said the lack of accessible parking on Main Street was particularly frustrating, as she and her husband haven't been able to visit many of the restaurants they want to. Scudder said one time she saw a vacant parking spot on the eastern side of Main Street while she and her husband were in The Works, and they quickly left and drove to park on that side of the street.

She promptly spent $300 in one business and more than $100 in another, doing some long delayed shopping. Otherwise, she said, she would have to get her shopping done on Amazon.

Scudder said people have a new appreciation of the difficulties of getting around Brattleboro if they or a family member are temporarily disabled. There are no accessible spaces along Main Street as it is not wide enough to accommodate ADA requirements, the group pointed out. Members suggested that the parallel parking on one side of Main Street be eliminated, to give the needed space for ADA spaces on the other side, but they acknowledged that was not likely to happen.

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"I know that's a big deal," said committee member Janis Hall.

Or, they said, instead of spaces that are not strictly ADA compliant, spots could be marked for "disability friendly parking." Also, businesses could rent the town's blue parking hoods to reserve spaces for disability customers, they said.

Patrick Moreland, Brattleboro's assistant town manager, who was at the meeting, said the town is acting on one of the major complaints about the parking garage. He said it was not just the disabled community complaining that the lighting was inadequate. He said money has already been approved to upgrade the lighting: adding additional fixtures and upgrading the wattage of the existing lights. Moreland said the town's Traffic Safety Committee handles parking in town, and that the ADA Advisory group should work with the Safety Committee to identify and locate better handicapped parking spots.

Julie Tamler, chairwoman of the ADA Advisory Committee, said she was very angry and frustrated with the lack of attention the group was getting, and that the group had never been told about the town's traffic safety committee, which could address many of the group's concerns.

Tamler, the executive director of The Inclusion Center, said she was disappointed more members of the public and business community, including of the disabled community, didn't attend the Friday morning meeting and discussion of the poll results. Besides the committee members, there were only about a handful of people at the meeting.

"This is appalling," she said.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 154.


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