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Westford Disability Commissioners Weigh In on Bandstand Lift

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Members of the Commission on Disability will recommend that handicapped accessibility to the bandstand lift remain limited. From left are Chairman Ray Clark, Joyce Benoit and Kate Phaneuf. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE
Members of the Commission on Disability will recommend that handicapped accessibility to the bandstand lift remains limited. From left are Selectman Scott Hazelton, Chairman Ray Clark, and members Joyce Benoit and Kate Phaneuf. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

 

Members of the Commission on Disability unanimously voted, Feb. 23, to leave well enough alone regarding the lift for the bandstand in the town Common.

The group discussed whether to recommend to Town Manager Jodi Ross that accessibility be increased and ultimately decided that it would not be necessary. However, the group will recommend adding signage that would restrict use of the lift to events held in the Common.

“We don’t have to make everything accessible all the time for everybody,” said Fred Horner.

The bandstand has been a topic of discussion since December when Ross recommended to selectmen an upgrade for the lift to comply with American Disability Act requirements. The device, termed a “freight lift” and not an “elevator,” is not required to comply with the state Board of Elevator Regulations, according to Ellen Harde, a member of the Common Restoration Project. Harde spearheaded an effort to raise funds for the bandstand’s construction.

The Board of Elevator Regulations falls under the umbrella of the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. According to the state website, “The term ‘elevator’ includes moving stairways, dumbwaiters, moving walks, material lifts, vertical reciprocating conveyors, and dumbwaiters with automatic transfer devices, wheelchair lifts, automatic people movers and other associated devices that are commonly included within the elevator industry. All elevator constructors, maintenance men, repairmen, and operators must be licensed by the Board.”

In conjunction with the Historical Commission, the bandstand was built in 2008 to replicate a historic one. Its compliance was grandfathered at the time, according to Harde. Ross argued that under current requirements, the mechanical lift, turned on by a key held at Town Hall, must meet specifications.

Selectmen took up the matter again on Jan. 24, when they voted to have a professional maintenance company check it regularly to ensure its proper function.

On Thursday, the Disability Commission members focused solely on accessibility. Members noted that the bandstand provides nothing essential such as bathrooms that would require full accessibility.

“It’s leisure. How do you measure access to something that’s pleasurable and a leisure activity?” said Marguerite Sabatino.

Disability Commission Chairman Ray Clark said that a handful of trained residents have agreed to be on call to help wheelchair-bound people use the lift, when necessary.

“There are several volunteers who are prepared to get the key, bring it out, help somebody who wants to use the lift,” he said.

After discussion, the group decided to keep limited handicapped accessibility to the bandstand.

“Is it the consensus of the group that status quo is fine?” said Clark.

“I think with the exception that maybe a suggestion of signage limiting access to (when) events (are held) for safety purposes,” said member Kate Phaneuf.

Town Manager Jodi Ross declined comment.