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New city commission worthy of emulation across our region

A new accessibility advisory commission is on the way in Williamsport.

With unanimous approval of the ordinance on first reading, there is little doubt that the new commission will be finalized and seated in coming months.

The new commission would come from a cross-section of the disabled community and include five voting members who would make recommendations to City Council and the administration, according to Councilman Jon Mackey who spearheaded its establishment. City Council would appoint three members and the mayor, two. They would be augmented by other representatives of city government who would not vote.

Invitations to serve on the commission have been extended to agencies that serve the disabled community. They include places such as Hope Enterprises, North Central Sight Services and the Center for Independent Living Roads to Freedom, a champion of the cause for accessibility.

Everyone should recognize this to be an important cause that may not directly impact a person in this moment. But remember, life can change in a flash — nobody knows what the future holds. Nobody wants to give up their independence. And we should all want our neighbors to be able to get around and participate in community life.

To that end, this as a victory for city residents who live with physical challenges in a city filled with century-old houses, business structures and public buildings.

It obviously will not be the answer to all of the challenges society faces as we become increasingly accessible, but it is another step down the road to accessibility that we have been on since the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990.

The new city commission will give community members who are deaf, visually impaired or living with mobility issues a voice as the city evaluates its facilities, services and programs.

It makes the city more inclusive and is an idea worthy of being duplicated in municipalities across the region, as well as by our county commissioners.

That said, we hope this new commission approaches the issues of handicap accessibility to City Hall in a thoughtful, reasonable manner that finds compromise amid the challenging financial crisis in which the city finds itself.

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