Anyone who is a person with disabilities (PWD) and everyone who knows one should give serious thought to the communities where they live. We (I also am a “PWD”) should assess how “livable” our communities are. Has your community adapted to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that was signed into law 23 years ago? But first, what is a “livable community.”
“Liveability” is the sum of the factors that add up to a community’s quality of life — including the built and natural environments, economic prosperity, social stability and equity, educational opportunity, and cultural, entertainment and recreation possibilities.
“Silver Tsunami” is the term some economic developers have coined to describe the impact of the aging of about 77 million baby boomers. One in five Americans born between 1946 and 1964 will be 65 or older by 2030. Putting it another way, people who are older than 65 will exceed 88 million by 2050 in America to affect business, housing, healthcare, finance, real estate, education and workforce development.
Do you know that Connecticut is now the seventh oldest state in the nation, with 507,000 residents over the age of 65?
With Gov. Malloy’s support, 5,200 Connecticut nursing home patients and persons with disabilities will have been transitioned by 2016 to “independent” living through a program called Money Follows the Person. The yearly savings could be about $700 million — an excellent motive for Connecticut’s 169 towns, cities, and villages to make themselves livable.
What’s the point of living independently — if your community’s streets, sidewalks, businesses, government buildings have obstructions to mobility that, though you can get around independently, you can’t get there? Accepting or choosing independent living in an unliveable community may isolate you from the world.
Are doctors’ offices in my community handicapped accessible? Does my Medicare cover free paratransport to doctors of my choosing?
Does my community subscribe to My Ride paratransport to take me to schools, town/city hall, polling places, restaurants, libraries, art galleries, museums, malls/shopping centers, supermarkets, and department stores?
Can I obtain housekeeping and visiting nurses?
Does my community participate in the Energy Assistance Program, to help me pay my utility bills?
Does my landlord participate in the Housing Assistance Program to help me pay my rent?
Are sidewalks and curbcuts in ADA condition — safe enough to enable me to go downtown by myself? Or are conditions so bad that I need an aide and paratransport just to go to my barber or hair salon only a few blocks away?
Can I get inside shops, stores, and restaurants? Do restaurants have ADA bathrooms?
Does my community’s senior center offer more than bingo? Does it provide group paratransport to supermarkets, malls, and destinations for arts, entertainment, recreation, and education?
Can I go inside my post office? Or must I pay for postage outdoors at the handicapped entrance?
Does my city or town hall have an automatic door at its handicap entrance? A doorbell even?
Does my community participate in paratransport to take me to my house of worship on Sundays or Saturdays?
Joseph A. Luciano