Letter: Woodstock lacks accessibility for people with disabilities

The Town of Woodstock seems to be ignoring a large community of people with disabilities. I’ve made attempts for three years on an advocate level. I’ve taken two days two years ago to walk just about every inch of our town, as I took many pictures of broken, dangerous and/or lack of sidewalks in our town. These are dangerous obstacles for the community of people with disabilities. In my opinion, it truly is a form of discrimination, be it unintentional or, now that I’ve spoken to our town supervisor, it will be three years this summer. What I’m told is, “The town is only responsible for certain sidewalks and the store-owners are responsible for their own sidewalks.” This doesn’t mean simple removal of snow or obstacles; this means any storeowners who have unsafe sidewalks or no sidewalks would have to pay to have their sidewalks repaved.

I personally am tired of seeing people in wheelchairs or mobility devices having to go directly into traffic in order to find a safe sidewalk, or even so much as a sidewalk. Within all my talks and sharing of ADA information straight out of Washington, DC, nothing gets done, just a lot of empty Yeses. Well, that’s not getting a well-overdue job done. And again, to be redundant, it’s excluding a community of people with disabilities. What might not seem like an obstacle to one who isn’t disabled certainly is to one with a disability.

Last summer, my dear neighbor and friend who was ever so exhausted by attempting to go into town in his wheelchair decided to invest in an accessible scooter. I remember the day he received it: You would have thought it was Christmas, he was so excited as I helped him open the box. Well, while crossing the street by Library Lane, he was hit by a car and later died. How many times must we allow this to happen before the town does some serious grantwriting or finds the money to make Woodstock accessible to all?

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I’ve been nothing but kind as an advocate and truly wanting to believe I was being heard and taken seriously. But lately it seems that’s been illusion more than truth. I brought up grantwriting and our town supervisor said, “The money isn’t there.” The purpose of a grantwriter is to find the money, and it’s there. Our sidewalks were installed in 1970 and have not been touched since.

Storeowners, per our town supervisor, to be redundant, the town is only responsible for certain sidewalks; otherwise, storeowners are responsible for their own sidewalks. Yes, I too found this quite jaw-dropping. Hence the reason I’d like to take that weight off of you and have the town do some serious grant-searching and -writing. Our town has been packed with tourists again; even tourists have to walk into the street due to narrow, broken and/or no sidewalks at all. Imagine having mobility issues, living an independent life as a person with a disability, trying to maneuver our sidewalks or lack thereof.

The Woodstock Police Department has agreed to “Project Access,” and I’m hoping this goes countywide. It’s an every-year/month sweep of law enforcement, paying special attention to people illegally parked in accessible parking spaces meant for legally tagged vehicles, of whom those spaces are designed for. However, unless the Town of Woodstock doesn’t repaint, fix their accessible signage, it makes it hard for an officer to ticket a person due to very poorly marked accessible parking spaces.

We’re a town that welcomes tourists, yet does not welcome those with disabilities, no less those who live here. I ask anyone who reads this to please share your opinions with the town. This is not a job I can do on my own; however, it’s also not an issue I’m letting go of until the Town of Woodstock is accessible to all. As it should be.

“Disability doesn’t discriminate; it could be you one day having such struggles.”

Jacqueline Manganaro
Woodstock


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