Highway Department Takes Part in Experiential ADA Training

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 3, 2015

  Bennington Highway Crew Uses Experiential Training to Address ADA Accessibility Requirements

BENNINGTONBlind 1 – Town highway crews took time out of their spring cleaning schedule to listen to concerns and receive training from local residents in hopes of improving ADA accessibility on Town-maintained streets and sidewalks. The hour and a half session included presentations from members of the community who are vision impaired or who have limited mobility.

As part of the “Vision Impaired and Roll Around” awareness training, members of the Town’s highway department donned special eyewear that were designed to simulate different limited-vision situations and used wheelchairs to get a better understanding of the accessibility issues that disabled individuals face on a regular basis. Crew members took to the sidewalks using these different devices and got a real-life experience from the viewpoint of someone who struggles with physical disabilities.

The idea for this program was first suggested by local resident Charlie Murphy who made the request at a local Select Board meeting, at which time he expressed his concerns for the lack of manageable pedestrian transportation methods in the community. Murphy, who is legally blind and uses a walking stick, participated in the training session that was given by Jeff Schroeder. In one instance during the guided portion of the training, a highway crew member who was using simulation glasses and a walking stick began to wander off the sidewalk and into a parking area. Schroeder stopped the individual and had him take note of the change in sounds around him. He was able to identify that the sound of traffic had moved farther away and an added echo showed he was moving closer to a building. This experience showed how easy it was to veer off course when certain pedestrian markers, such as curbs and a change in pavement disappear. In other cases, members of the highway department experience how difficult it is to maneuver a wheelchair across a busy roadway and onto a curb cut.

Wheelchair 1“This training was a home run for us,” said RJ Joly, Bennington’s highway superintendent.  “Our team was very appreciative of the awareness team’s time and left the session discussing ways to improve accessibility in and around the downtown.”  The goal moving forward will be for members of the highway team to assess different access ‘pinch-points” around town and consider different ways of implementing pedestrian amenities with accessibility in mind.

While there will always be challenges with accessibility, the Town’s hope is that a better perspective will help with the design, implementation and maintenance of all of its transportation avenues.

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For more information contact:
Michael Harrington
Economic and Community Development Director
802-447-9710
mharrington@benningtonvt.org