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City’s accessibility for disabled community gains momentum

Landmark developments are happening in terms of Williamsport’s accessibility to the disabled community.

It begins with the first ever Accessibility Commission, which is a body under development, and which will hold an initial meeting at 3 p.m. Feb. 25, a city official involved said.

City Councilman Jon Mackey, who facilitated the commission formation to this point, said the meeting will be held remotely by Zoom technology and accessible by going to the city website and following the lead to YouTube.

“We are excited to be holding our first meeting,” Mackey said.

The names of the commission members and positions to be filled is a work in progress, he said.

So far, there are the following voting members: Max Moore, Timothy West and Tyler Mogavero, he said.

“We still have two spots open,” he said, adding to any reader that is an open invitation.

The goal is to have a total of five voting members, Mackey said.

The purpose is to ensure the agenda is driven by those on the commission with guidance from the city administration and council representative.

“We want it to be driven by those in the disabled community,” Mackey said.

Recently, too, the city settled a federal lawsuit filed by the Center for Independent Living Roads to Freedom, Adapt Pennsylvania and four individuals, who sued the city over violations of Americans with Disabilities Law.

Part of the settlement was for the city to design and have a ramp built entering City Hall via West Fourth Street. The project also included doors that are accessible, upgrades to the existing elevator and other handicapped accessible improvements throughout the building.

The commission is not to take a direct role in the design of a mandatory access ramp at the West Fourth Street entrance to City Hall, Mackey said.

That will be the work of a panel of five as laid out in the settlement, with three members appointed by the city. The committee will advise the city during development of the workplan and may suggest provisions for the workplan.

The workplan schedule will be updated in writing on a monthly basis to reflect work completed and modifications resulting from any changes.

The schedule will be maintained on the city’s website.

Other mandates include the city must employ or designate a consent decree coordinator, reporting directly to Mayor Derek Slaughter, or the sitting mayor.

Additionally, the city will provide to city staff hands-on awareness training to communicate the experience of a person with disabilities in various settings and maintain an effective complaint procedure for grievances.

The easy-to-access procedure will be available for residents and visitors to request installation, improvements, and repairs regarding City Hall access, according to the settlement terms.

To implement the agreement, the parties agreed to many other provisions, including that the city retain a licensed architect or other professional trained and experienced in accessibility standards to survey and provide a written report on City Hall federal accessibility law compliance.

Moreover, steps are to be taken as well as to furnish continuing advice to the city.

The consent decree, which remains under review by U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew W. Brann, will adopt a written workplan to provide for timely accessible compliance.

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