Nobs turn snobs when it comes to people with disabilities

The Globe updates us on efforts to get handicap ramps and bumpy warning strips installed in the toniest of Boston's neighborhoods:

[T]he plan was rejected in December by officials of the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission, who complained about the materials proposed and said the bumpy plastic strips would mar the neighborhood’s Colonial-era character.

Yes, they would seriously detract from the hundreds of colonial automobiles parked on colonial asphalt underneath all those colonial Resident Parking signs when their drivers (garbed in breeches, no doubt) aren't busy stopping for colonial traffic signals and colonial stop signs.

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Well!

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I never!

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white people problems

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"the bumpy plastic strips would mar the neighborhood’s Colonial-era character."

Just kidding about "white people problems." I'm sure they'll identify a plan they can get on board with because everyone knows disabilities aren't a 21st century phenomena.

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Wow. Just...wow.

Wow. Just...wow.

The next time someone on Beacon Hill needs an ambulance, let's make sure to dispatch an ox cart, so the sirens and spinning lights won't mar the quaintitood of the neighborhood.

Or maybe we should just send a butcher with a jar of leeches and a bonesaw.

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Mass General was always close by

But they will have to restore the water connection so they can take a stretcher to a boat and float over to the dock.

Or carry the victim on a stretcher through the streets.

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Well, if they really

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want to keep a "colonial-era character" to the Hill, I strongly suggest that the Commission investigate the feasibility of reintroducing brothels to Charles Street. Mount Whoredom Take Two!

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Lovey, LOVEY!!!

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Why, the next thing you know, the Senatorial residents of Louisburg Square will be using their influence and money to get inconvenient fire hydrants moved...

Oh, wait. Never mind.

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I'm sure there are

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Many residents of Beacon Hill who don't agree with this position and/or need the access themselves. They should make their voices heard. Do you hear me, stroller moms??

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The disability community

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I'm sure the disability community can advocate for themselves. They don't need your help.

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That's cute, Anode.

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But if you actually read my comment, I said that the people who need curb cuts and textured surfaces advocate for themselves, along with others for whom it's a helpful convenience.

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Imitation

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Is the sincerest form of flattery!

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unelected

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These unelected commissions - including the Public Health Commission - should not have the power to make these rules.

Elect them, or leave them to an advisory role.

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They were created democratically

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In that the property owners who allowed the historic district to be created in the first place (and the subsequent owners who bought into it knowing the deed restrictions) agreed to their oversight, and saw it as a common good.

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18th century democracy

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Since when do only property owners get to vote? Also, how do "deed restrictions" bind improvements to public ways owned by everyone?

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I would be genuinely

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I would be genuinely surprised if the Architectural Commission really had the power to override ADA/AAB regulations for wheelchair accessibility.

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They can't.

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What they can do is force a sitdown where something that works for both parties is agreed upon. This happens all_the_time when handicap ramps have to be added to historic public buildings.

It sounds like they are objecting to the yellow plastic more than accessibility. They do make those bumpy strips out of a varirity of materials that would blend in better, like stained concrete. If that's all this is I see no big deal.

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The textured strips

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Are meant to be high visibility, hence the yellow color. It isn't as noticeable to people with low vision if the strips are gray. They wouldn't sufficiently stand out.

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They just installed grey ones

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Throughout the new charlesview redevelopment. I've seen them in other high profile brand new installations as well. So it would appear the point is moot.

Besides, aren't they mostly intended for the blind?

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Yellow is already off the table for historic districts...

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The City (Public Works and the Disability Commission) in negotiations with NAs for the Back Bay, South End, and Bay Village, and Beacon Hill together with the Landmarks/Architectural Commissions for those neighborhoods (including a couple of public meetings with all parties invited and chaired by the then PWD Commissioner) hammered out a compromise for historic districts.

Yellow was off the table for all historic districts, and all the historic districts (except Beacon Hill) agreed to a brick red (or terracotta) tactile strip that would visually complement the largely brick environment of the historic districts yet still offer sufficient contrast with the surrounding material to meet ADA guidelines and assist the visually impaired. The rest of the city (non-historic districts) will all have yellow tactile strips in their ramps.

BHAC does not support the color compromise of a brick red tactile strip preferring that their tactile strips be the color grey--which the disability community refuses to accept and insists that it offers insufficient contrast (especially given our climate and weather). The city reasonably wants just one color compromise for all the historic districts not two or three or some multiple choice scheme. In addition, the city wants to use an industry standard hard plastic material for the tactile strips based on cost and durability. Again, Beacon Hill objects to the proposed hard plastic material for the strips insisting on stone, granite, or some other sort of "organic" material. Public Works objects to this based on cost, durability, and installation; the hard plastic strips can be installed and removed by literally screwing them out of or into the sidewalk for install and replacement while stone or other organic materials will have to be cemented into and jack-hammered out to replace them. In addition, Public Works also says that stone or other organic materials break down much more quickly and estimate that maintenance and replacement costs will be at least double or triple the cost of the hard plastic. Beacon Hill disputes some of these cost and durability assertions by Public Works.

Folks should understand that this is just the opening hand in the larger question of how to address sidewalk repair and refurbishment in historic districts. Current policy states that existing concrete sidewalks will be replaced with concrete and existing brick will be replaced with "wire-cut brick" (a smooth surfaced application of tile-like brick sections laid over an asphalt or concrete bed) that is at least as smooth as our asphalt roads. There are some (a minority) in the disability community who do not share that view and think that all brick should be replaced with concrete. However, the key issues of sidewalk width, trees, lamp-posts, slate coal chutes in sidewalks, entry steps to sidewalk ratios etc. is one of the most daunting challenges that will face Boston's historic districts and the city and historic districts will need the support of the disability community and the State Architectural Access Board (which is empowered to help fashion compromises in implementing ADA requirements).

Maintaining a longer view of the issues we will jointly face, together with fostering good will and trust, and being careful to not let the perfect become the enemy of the good, will serve our neighbors on Beacon Hill best--and all historic districts--now and for the future.

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Very enlightening

Thanks, Steve. This explains a lot of the background. I knew about the red color option and I think it is a good compromise for people like you and me who live in the South End. I don't know why the fuss in BH about it - have they seen how well it works here in the SE?

The entire brick "controversy" is one for the books - it's a fascinating subject worthy of studying and writing about. Everyone loves the look of the brick but anyone who uses a wheelchair or stroller knows how difficult it is to maneuver -- the cut bricks you mention solve a lot of that problem, but not all of it - still a choppy walk. Those of us who walk everywhere have a better perspective than those who drive and don't have to deal with it.

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Wow, a clear and concise

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Wow, a clear and concise discussion (with evidence!) of the issues surrounding the neighborhood and not laying the blame on either! What planet did you come from? lol

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This is something that people are missing

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And the article mentions it.

I may think that the Neighborhood Associations can be a pain in the behind, but they are only trying to find a compromise between the needs of our modern society and the needs of, in my opinion, the nineteenth century. Something will undoubtedly be hashed out, and some people will be happy and others annoyed. Let's hope the former number is that much greater than the latter.

It's not that they don't want to be ADA compliant. They just want to do it on their terms (or something close to their terms.)

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Sidewalks in non-historic districts

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It's worth noting that sidewalks, more generally across Boston, are often in disrepair or use materials that are not friendly to disabled and abled alike. There does not appear to be a consistent standard for sidewalk construction or maintenance. You see everything from concrete, asphalt, bricks, "wire cut" bricks, stone tiles (i.e. 500 Boylston Street), to large slabs of stone--much of which is slanted, misaligned, etc. I heard somewhere that the issue is driven in part by the fact that sidewalks are privately constructed/maintained, which is why you see so much inconsistency and poor maintenance.

In Somerville, we have tactile strips and most/all of them are brick-red colored.

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Thank you

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for such an in-depth explanation. Honestly it sounds like the its the DPW that is being more of a pain than the Beacon Hill NA. I don't buy their longevity argument on the plastic, based off how the T just tore out all the plastic crossing material on the trolley lines. It was supposed to last far longer than conventional paving, not only did that not work, but it was super slippery too. The argument about replacement is funny as well, I don't foresee these things ever being replaced based off the general upkeep of sidewalks in this city. Even if they did need to be replaced it would be what, a handful a decade?

The Beacon Hill may be a bit uppity in their pushing for grey, but it would contrast better with brick than a terracotta color, and it is their prerogative. And as I said, my non historic neighborhood and the adjacent Charlesview project both have brand new, non plastic grey tactile strips.

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It's a truly sad day for society when

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we have to decide upon the color of a device intended to aid the disabled, when colors for such devices have been established and are widely used in other places. For one thing, there's this matter of uniformity. Suppose a disabled tourist from the midwest injures themeselves by tripping up on one of these red or gray strips, or totally disregards it and walks directly into an oncoming car, because they were expecting a yellow one. How fast can you say "lawsuit"?

I say put the yellow strips down and, you know what? People will get used to the appearance, the disabled will be properly serviced, and life in the big city will go on normally.

Asethetics are totally subjective, therefore, they are a poor excuse to deviate from established standards.

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Most of the bumpy strips in

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Most of the bumpy strips in Cambridge are made of rusty iron, whether they're in historic districts or not. They look like you'd get hurt pretty badly if you tripped and landed on one.

I'll have to ask my friends who are blind if they actually find these things useful.

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