Jeffrey Dougan, Assistant Director
The Community Services Program interacts with approximately 8,000 people per year through training and technical assistance to help ensure that people with disabilities learn of their rights and responsibilities and that state, local and private entities know how to comply with their non-discrimination responsibilities. This Unit developed and runs the nationally acclaimed and replicated Community Access Monitor (CAM) Program.
Since the creation of the Community Access Monitor Project in 1985, approximately 12,000 people have been trained by MOD in state and federal laws to advocate for access. This is a unique training and grass roots advocacy program. While Community Access Monitors do not have legal enforcement authority, monitors have proven to be highly effective advocates. In 1995 the program gained national recognition. Community Access Monitors can be found from as far away as California and Florida to the close to home states of Vermont and Connecticut. Representatives from 32 states have come to Massachusetts to learn how to run this program. It has been replicated as a national program to encourage access in cultural venues. This segment of the program, known as the Cultural Access Initiative, has been endorsed as a major project of National Very Special Arts.
Examples of Community Services Advocacy
MOD learned that a sheltered workshop where people with mental retardation and other physical disabilities worked was being run in an inaccessible location. Ramps were extremely steep and unsafe and wheelchair users were being carried into inaccessible bathrooms where the doors had to remain open while the person used the toilet. MOD intervened. The wheelchair users were placed in a safe location until modifications could be made.
MOD received a call that a $43 million high school renovation project contained architectural barriers that precluded students who use wheelchairs and other mobility aides from fully participating in school activities. A survey of the school was set up that included the architect, contractor, local building officials, students, and the local Commission on Disability. The municipality was able to go back to the architect and contractor to correct the problems. This resulted in no additional cost to the municipality and avoided a costly lawsuit.
A woman with MS who could no longer climb stairs needed to make modifications in order to continue living in her home. She was denied a building permit on the basis of a zoning ordinance. MOD intervened by advising the town of their obligation under federal and state law to treat her request as an exception to usual zoning practices.