WORCESTER – The head of Worcester’s Disability Commission has taken issue with the new Canal District Shuttle Bus and its lack of accessibility for disabled people.
In an interview with ThisWeekinWorcester.com [TWIW] last week, Robert Bilotta, the Commission’s chairperson, said, “The group behind the Canal District shuttle bus is seemingly saying, ‘Hey, let’s get a shuttle bus for everyone. But not really for everyone.’”
The Canal District Shuttle launched on Tuesday, Aug. 6 and it currently runs Tuesday through Saturday 11 AM – 3 PM making stops throughout the neighborhood on Water St., Green St. Harding St., Winter St. and Kelley Sq. on a 10-minute loop.
Although each stop the 20-passenger shuttle [see photo below] makes has handicap accessible parking, the shuttle itself isn’t handicap accessible.
“The able-bodied world bends over backwards to make things more accessible for people that are completely able. From my experience with a lot of things that happen in this city — not just the Canal District — the work to make things accessible for the disabled is never done before the work is completed. It’s always after the fact,” Bilotta said.
According to Allen Fletcher, owner of the soon-to-be-open Worcester Public Market [located at Kelley Sq. and Green St], not having the shuttle wheelchair accessible “was a matter of cost for an experimental, shoestring operation.”
In an email to TWIW on Aug. 8, Fletcher said, “If the need for accessibility to the shuttle van does become an issue going forward, we will attempt to address it at that time.
Fletcher — along with Crompton Place owner Dino Lorusso and 7Hills Property Management owner Ed Murphy — are behind the creation of the district’s shuttle service.
Fletcher told TWIW that his Worcester Public Market will have four designated handicap spaces, along with one other designated space on Green St. to serve the Kelley Square lofts — 48 apartment units located above the Worcester Public Market.
“The market itself will be fully handicap accessible. For that reason, we do not anticipate handicap drivers needing to use our remote parking facilities,” Fletcher said. “Additionally, the previous and newly scheduled streetscape improvements throughout the district – including Kelley Square — all satisfy ADA regulations, making the entire district quite accessible.”
Additionally — according to the shuttle’s website — any vehicle with a Handicap plaquer or handicapped passenger will be allowed to park for free.
With all of the recent and future development in the Canal District area — including at Fletcher’s market, the complete reconstruction of Kelley Square this fall and the construction of Polar Park– Bilotta thinks now is the time to do even more for the disabled living in and visiting that area.
“The construction in the district is one thing. We understand that it’s going to be difficult to get around. But it seems as if they’re doing things that cater even more to people that can easily walk around and not even thinking about people that will have a harder time getting around the construction,” Bilotta said. “It’s a nightmare down there [for the disabled].”
“These leaders now have the opportunity to say ‘We want to make the Canal District accessible to everyone.’ They need to understand that there are residents in the City that have different abilities — whether they’re in wheelchairs, or deaf and hard of hearing or visually impaired — so that everyone could come and enjoy the future of the Canal District — which is going to be awesome, I’m sure,” he added.
According to Bilotta, earlier this month members of the Disability Commission were emailing each other back and forth about the shuttle and were asking whether it would be accessible.
“When we found out [Tuesday, Aug. 6] that [the shuttle] wasn’t accessible, it didn’t go over well. It will be a focus point at our next meeting,” Bilotta said.
The next Disability Commission meeting is Tuesday, Aug. 20.
Lead photo: Canal District Shuttle Bus on Harding St/Photo: Patrick Sargent for ThisWeekinWorcester.com
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