Last Wednesday, the City of Boston’s Boston Disabilities Commission celebrated the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act with a street festival on City Hall Plaza, which is nearing the finish line on a renovation project that will deliver major accessibility upgrades.
Music filled the air as folks meandered through the resource fair and picked up information on immigration services, volunteer opportunities and even flyers with details on how to get around during the Orange Line shutdown.
Kristen McCosh, City of Boston Disabilities Commissioner, told StreetsblogMASS that after the Orange Line shutdown announcement, they began working with the T on a daily basis to ensure the disability community was considered.
“When the Orange Line announced it was shutting down, we got right to work with them to ensure that buses were accessible, the shuttles were accessible.”
“We really kind of think of (ADA Day) more like a party and a celebration of the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is definitely one of the bigger community events in the local disability community,” said Chris Moraski, a constituent support specialist for the city’s Disabilities Commission.
In a speech to the gathering, Kristen McCosh, City of Boston Disabilities Commissioner, described City Hall Plaza as a place that “traditionally has been really difficult for people with disabilities to navigate.”
McCosh acknowledged how far the City's efforts around accessibility have come since she was first appointed back in 2010, when adding one accessible path in the plaza was considered a huge win.
“Today the city is saying, ‘No, we're not just having the path, we're having the whole plaza be accessible,’” said McCosh.
The project, designed by Sasaki, faced significant accessibility challenges within the plaza space, where there’s a the 30-foot difference in elevation between Congress Street and Cambridge Street.
The construction has experienced delays throughout the pandemic, but when it’s complete, folks will have access to City Hall through a new north entrance, which is being expanded and made accessible as part of the project.
Many of the granite steps, a key feature of the old plaza, have been removed, and will be replaced with what McCosh describes as “a series of sloped walkways.”
Once the larger plaza is complete, the next area in City Hall to see accessibility improvements will be the southern side of City Hall, where the city’s ADA celebration was held.
“We haven't reached the finish line yet. But we're making really good progress. It's coming around the corner, and we're really looking forward to that,” said Fiske Crowell, Principal with Sasaki.