City Inclusion Work: People with Disabilities

One aspect to inclusiveness in Evesham Township, NJ, is to better accommodate people with disabilities. Beginning this work in 2019, the township of 45,000 people is now using a recent grant to build on their earlier commitment. Denver, CO, has made a similar commitment, and both cities have fully engaged the disabilities community in their efforts.

Evesham’s Township Council adopted a measure in 2019 to reorganize departments and create the Division of Community Affairs and Senior & Disability Services to better serve people with disabilities. It is estimated that one in 10 residents of Evesham has a physical or mental disability, yet the township’s planning documents have not incorporated inclusive policies. “When it comes to planning for Evesham Township’s future growth,” Mayor Jaclyn Veasy said, “I fully believe our municipality has both a practical and moral obligation to incorporate fully inclusive policies beyond just those mandated by the law.”

More recently, in 2021, the township was one of only two places in the state to receive a $100,000 grant from the Inclusive Healthy Communities (IHC) Grant Program through the state’s Department of Human Services and Division of Disability Services. Under this grant, the township will gather statistical data and ideas from people with disabilities to help the city develop and implement a permanent Inclusion Component of the Evesham Township Master Plan, which will allow Evesham residents with disabilities to benefit from an “inclusion-in-all-things” approach to community leadership.

The City/County of Denver worked with the National Civic League in 2019 to conduct outreach and gather opinions and ideas from people with disabilities about improving access to city facilities. The League held focus group discussions and surveyed individuals to gather ideas from nearly 400 people from the disability community, which ranged from thoughts on improving access to facilities to fixing other infrastructure and modifying programs to better serve the community.

Since this outreach process, the City/County of Denver has committed to remedying 1,656 architectural barriers that exist in city owned and managed facilities by 2025. That list was created from a larger overall list of identified barriers and was prioritized based on a few factors, specifically including community input that was gathered in the 2019 listening tour.

Additionally, for the remaining barriers that exist beyond the 1,656, the city is working to update its Transition Plan, which is quite progressive and unique, as it will contain not only identified physical barriers and their remedial plan, but also programmatic barriers and the ways that go beyond compliance with the ADA to move beyond that to full inclusion.

The motto of Denver’s Division of Disability Rights is To Compliance and Beyond!  “We live and breathe that motto each day,” said Director Alison Butler, Esq., “and are working hard within both our architectural teams and programmatic teams to fully incorporate the community in everything we do. We hold quarterly town hall meetings, send out monthly newsletters, manage a process by which people can request information, resources or file a grievance. And we hold specific community feedback sessions on issues that will directly impact the disability community. In the last year, these have included accessible seating at Red Rocks, rebates available for accessible e-bikes, and how to write a new city ordinance regarding accessible EV charging stations.”

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