This post by RCA President Colin Mills was originally published in Reston Patch.
It’s been a few months since I last wrote about RCA’s Reston Accessibility Committee,
and the changes they achieved at South Lakes
Village Center. Well, Ken Fredgren and his hard-working group have remained
quite active since January, when I last wrote about them, and it’s high time
that I shine the spotlight on their latest work. RAC continues to champion the
cause of ensuring accessibility for everyone throughout Reston.
On the heels of their success at South Lakes, RAC turned its attention to the
Hospital Center. As you would imagine, accessibility is paramount at a
hospital. So when a RAC member reported that she had had experienced problems
opening the bathroom doors at the hospital, not only did RHC staff test the
doors and fix them quickly, but they also reached out to RAC to talk about how
the hospital could be made more accessible.
RAC performed a survey of the hospital property and made several suggestions
for improvement. And the RHC staff listened! The hospital now has more
accessible parking spaces, access aisles, curb ramps, curb cuts, and
crosswalks. Some of the existing accessible spaces were relocated to provide a
more accessible route to the hospital buildings. They even moved their valet
parking service to the main entrance to provide safer and more comfortable
access for patients with disabilities.
I’m delighted to know that RHC is now a friendlier place for those with
disabilities. Kudos to RAC for another successful project! And kudos to RHC
for their proactive approach to improving accessibility. Ken reported that RHC
Community & Government Relations VP Tracey White and COO Jane Raymond, who
were the liaisons to RAC on the project, were tremendously helpful and pleasant
to work with. I feel great knowing that we have a hospital that cares about
ensuring access for all of its patients and visitors.
The RHC effort is just one of several Reston projects that RAC has been
working on these last few months. The other efforts are still in progress, and
I’ll be sure to share the news once they’ve been completed.
In addition to his work in Reston, Ken has also been at work in Richmond. He
is continuing to push for the Board of Housing and Community Development to
approve the building code changes that his working group proposed. It’s been a
slow process, as the Board has been reluctant to adopt the changes. This has
meant that Ken has had to spend a lot of time and energy revising the proposed
changes and driving back and forth from Richmond to attend hearings.
But Ken has not given up; he’s continued to advocate for the changes, and to
work to find a compromise that will allow these changes to move forward. If he
is successful (and I believe he will be), people with disabilities all over the
Commonwealth will benefit from his efforts.
RAC’s dedication and hard work has earned recognition even beyond Reston’s
borders. In honor of Building Safety Month, last week RAC received the Community
Partnership Award from the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and
Environmental Services. The award was presented at a ceremony before the Board
of Supervisors. I’m delighted to see RAC receive the recognition it deserves,
and I hope that the award might spur others throughout the County to create an
Accessibility Committee in their own communities.
Ever the advocate, Ken took a moment during his acceptance speech to call on
the Supervisors to create a process to enforce requirements for compliant
accessible parking signs throughout the County. In order for a parking space to
be truly “accessible,” it needs to be properly designed (on level ground, with
access aisles) and properly signed. Ken called on the County to perform
inspections of accessible parking signs and spaces. Better yet, both Chairman
Bulova and Supervisor Hudgins made a public commitment to address the issue.
I’m hopeful that this will come to pass, and if it does, it will be another move
forward for people with disabilities.
As you can see, RAC has kept itself active working on behalf of Restonians
with disabilities. If you’re inspired by what they’re doing, you can now tell
them in person, because RAC is getting out into the community. Last Saturday,
for the first time, RAC had a booth at the Reston Farmer’s
Market at Lake Anne. Their booth was stocked with information about RAC and
its accomplishments, and they did a fine job spreading the word.
So if you have any questions about RAC, or if you’d like to give them a
donation or join the committee, or if you’d just like to say thanks for what
they’re doing, stop by their booth. They’re planning to return to the Market on
May 18th, and they’re hoping to be there every other week while the
market is in operation.
As always, I’m inspired by the example Ken and RAC are setting. Improving
access for the disabled is not an easy or high-profile task, but the success of
RAC’s volunteer activists is a sight to behold. With hard work, good will, and
a firm interest in the community welfare, RAC is making Reston a better place to
live, work, play, and get around.