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Re: A FAIR SHAKE FOR DISABLED/HANDICAPPED COMMUNITY GARDENERS

  • Subject: Re: [cg] A FAIR SHAKE FOR DISABLED/HANDICAPPED COMMUNITY GARDENERS
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Wed, 14 May 2003 08:31:54 EDT

Friend,

Years ago, I remember as part of my orientation as a summer paralegal at a 
Rockefeller Center law firm, I had to get into a wheelchair and try to get 
around in the streets of Midtown Manhattan.  At that time there were no curb 
cuts, kneeling buses and handicap accessible ramps.  As a tyro with a 
wheelchair, I tipped over several times trying to get across the street.  Did 
people yell at me! "Where is your attendant? Don't you know you could get 
killed out here?" 

Now, it's a different world, thanks to the multiple law suits that grew into 
the Americans With Disabilities Act, but compliance, on a daily basis still 
requires negotiation and planning to make it work. 

This is especially necessary when you're dealing with community gardens - 
entities that may have Parks Dept landlords, but are constructed and 
maintained by volunteers.  There is a gray area as to where the 
responsibilities of the volunteers ends and Parks begins.  And remember, if 
you're too much of a pain-in-the-ass, your lease might not be renewed at the 
discretion of the Parks Dept. 

On the issue of the gardeners with disabilities: 

"A little over a week ago, two of our disabled members- one of whom has 
 emphasema and asthma and uses portable oxygen twenty-four hours a day- duly 
 parked in the designated area, walked to the garden, worked in the garden a 
 couple of hours until the onset of  of an asthma attack. Her partner called 
the Park District on his cell phone  to get someone to come unlock the gate 
so he could drive in to  transport his partner for medical help. He could not 
get a response and left 
 an understandably agitated message. The Park District now blames   him and 
her and takes offense at his choice of words("BS"), claiming he  should not 
have bothered the Park District!"

Parks Departments across the country are strapped for funds and do not have 
people sitting at desks to answer emergency calls.  It would be my guess that 
this gentleman then called an ambulance or other first responders to help get 
this lady out of the garden ( you did not tell us if the gentleman's mobility 
was limited, etc.)  Also, Parks officials don't usually deal with folks in 
emergencies,  who are not always the most polite.  I will also assume that 
the follow up call on this incident may not have been the most civil...

A few suggestions:

1) Your garden community should have a meeting to discuss ADA issues in the 
garden and how, with planning and the run through of various scenarios, the 
issues of accessibilty for physically challenged individuals might be best 
addressed.  And by all means,  make this meeting mandatory for as many of the 
affected indiviudals as possible.  The last incident could have been fatal.  
Imagine if the gentleman had not had a cell phone!  Calmly lay out what the 
park is willing to do (have the gate open on certain days, parking lot on 
uneven grade nearby, etc.) and ask for reasonable, real-world suggestions. 

2. Resolve what is do-able, understanding what the resources of your park are 
and what facilities they provide for other ADA accessible areas in your park. 
 A solution might be to have a key in the hands of a garden steering 
committee member or available to disabled individuals.  Or you might decide 
to call first responders before you call the Parks Dept.  Work out common 
sense solutions.  It might be helpful to have a social worker who is 
experienced with how the ADA works in your community (California has it's own 
wrinkes, as well as your own municipality.)  

3. Draft a concerned, but non confrontational letter to the parks dept laying 
out the incident, your concerns and desire to work this out, understanding 
their budgetary limitations, but also their  mandated compliance  under the 
ADA.  Tell them what you have done and are prepared to do as volunteers to 
make the place safer for your disabled members ( raised beds,  wheelchair 
accessible paths etc...) and what you would like from the park. 

4. Then, take this draft to a local elected official's office and discuss 
your concerns with a councilperson's aide, who may suggest some other points. 
 Then finalize the letter and send it return receipt requested, to the Parks 
Dept. with cc's to that  elected official and aide. 

5. Important: the tone of the letter should be friendly, problem solving and 
an invitation to work with Parks, not confrontational.  Mention your 
agreement and their obligation under ADA but don't use it as a club.  In the 
subsequent meeting, say that photos of folks with disabilities gardening in a 
Parks facility might be useful at appropriations time and when their grant 
writer is applying for foundation funds - underline the "win-win" aspects of 
what you want to do. 

6. If the Parks Dept. acts in an intransigent manner there are legal remedies 
available under the ADA, but be sure that your attorney (because you will 
need one now) is conversant in the case law dealing with access to public 
recreational facilities and how it has played out in your community and the 
State of California.  You will also need to educate yourselves on the ADA and 
seek out governmental and not-for-profit groups that are experienced in 
handling these matters. 

Sorry for such a long note, but ADA compliance is more complicated than it 
should be.  

Happy gardening,
Adam Honigman
Volunteer, 
 <A HREF="http://www.clintoncommunitygarden.org/";>Clinton Community Garden</A>
  




 

 

<< Subj:     [cg] A FAIR SHAKE FOR DISABLED/HANDICAPPED COMMUNITY GARDENERS
 Date:  5/14/03 3:57:31 AM Eastern Daylight Time
 From:  Commgarden@aol.com
 Sender:    community_garden-admin@mallorn.com
 To:    community_garden@mallorn.com
 CC:    Commgarden@aol.com
 
 Dear Co-Community Gardeners,
 
 THIS IS AN URGENT REQUEST FOR ADVICE ABOUT GETTING COMPLIANCE WITH THE 
 "AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT"
 FROM  OUR COMMUNITY GARDEN 'LANDLORD'-OUR LOCAL PARK DISTRICT.
 BACKGROUND: We, The Las Flores Community Garden in Thousand Oaks, 
California, 
 in keeping with the AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, intentionally and 
 specifically include in our bylaws people with disabilities among those 
 eligible for membership and make discrimination against them grounds for 
 dismissal from our community garden.
 
 We have had a wriiten agreement for use of Conejo Recreation and Park 
 District land for our community garden since 2000, and have been given 
 repeated assurances that disabled access and parking  will be provided, so 
 far to no avail. (By the way, the District has a long established program of 
 recreational therapy for people wth disabilities at another site).
 There is a designated parking area some one hundred yards from the garden 
 over very uneven, unpaved ground , behind a gate that is only unlocked on 
 Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
 
 A little over a week ago, two of our disabled members- one of whom has 
 emphasema and asthma and uses portable oxygen twenty-four hours a day- duly 
 parked in the designated area, walked to the garden, worked in the garden a 
 couple of hours until the onset of
 of an asthma attack. Her partner called the Park District on his cell phone 
 to get someone to come unlock the gate so he could drive in to 
 transport his partner for medical help. He could not get a response and left 
 an understandably agitated message. The Park District now blames   
 him and her and takes offense at his choice of words("BS"), claiming he 
 should not have bothered the Park District!
 
 Have any other community garden groups or individuals run into a similar 
 situation? Were you able to resolve it to the benefit of your members? How 
 was that accomplished?
 
 Thanks for taking the time to read this >>

______________________________________________________
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