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The Massachusetts Office on Disability proudly introduced the Municipal Americans with Disabilities Act Improvement Grant Program (ADA Grant Program) in 2017. This grant program is aimed at supporting capital improvements specifically dedicated to improving access for individuals with disabilities in cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth.

During the FY18 grant cycle our office awarded 27 grant requests in 24 municipalities. Within the FY18 grant cycle, $956,614.85 was distributed amongst municipalities in order for them to remove barriers and increase access to services, facilities, and programs. This also helped them develop ADA Self-Evaluation and Transition plans for municipalities to identify areas of improvement for the future.
The ADA Grant Program is separated into two categories: Planning Grants and Project Grants. Planning Grants are used to create or update existing ADA Self-Evaluation and Transition plans as required under Title II of the ADA. During the FY18 grant cycle our office granted 13 Planning Grant requests totaling $293,041.92. Project Grants are used to make physical practical changes to facilities and services by removing barriers and adding ADA compliant amenities. For the FY18 grant cycle there were 14 Project Grant requests totaling $663,572.93.
The $663,572.93 that was awarded for Project Grants was used to improve access for individuals with disabilities by removing barriers and creating accessible routes, accessible restrooms, accessible entrances, and vertical access in public buildings. Some municipalities used the Project Grant for things such as automatic door openers that will improve accessibility for all people in important public buildings such as town halls.
North Andover, a FY18 Project Grant recipient, used their grant to purchase a Braille printer. This would allow the town to have a communication device that can translate a text document into braille and print out a readable format for individuals with visual impairments. Purchasing a Braille printer allowed for students and employees within the town to establish a way to maintain effective communication with all individuals, while also ensuring that individuals with disabilities are included within all communication processes.
Northampton, our largest Project Grant award recipient, was awarded $250,000. This municipality used the grant to provide access to their three most heavily used municipal buildings and to the most heavily used urban park in their city. Their project renovation provided access into their City Hall, Municipal Office Building, and their Memorial Hall. Previously, those buildings were served by inaccessible sidewalks with deep cracks and ruts that were extremely difficult to cross or navigate. These buildings also had steep drop-offs, inadequate handrails, poor lighting, and inaccessible wheelchair ramps. Our Project Grant provided them with concrete walkways, wheelchair ramps, detectable warning panels, crosswalk safety improvement, walkway lighting, and handrails to address the deficiencies. It also funded their city park, Pulaski Park. This park now has accessible walkways, accessible ramps, and warning panels, along with various other accessibility improvements. Previously, going from the park to the primary city public buildings was not accessible for individuals with disabilities. At present, these three establishments are accessible along with Pulaski Park. Read more about our Grant Program at mass.gov/mod/adagrant.

By Jakira Rogers and Karl Bryan of The Massachusetts Office on Disability

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