The Town of Greenburgh has given a voice to Greenburgh’s disabled population.
On Wednesday, the town formed the Disabled Advisory Committee at its town board meeting. The committee is led by 29-year old Hartsdale resident Angela Raso, after she sent an email to Supervisor Paul Feiner.
Raso was born with a heart condition and is confined to a wheelchair. Last year she got her drivers license for the first time, as she wanted to be independent.
“This year when I began driving, there were a lot of obstacles that I came across trying to get to certain places,” Raso said.
Raso said at the CVS near her home, there is only one handicap spot open and that if that spot is filled, she has to turn back home.
“There are no van accessible spots around,” Raso said. “I go to other places and there are only one or two spots available, and I end up parking by the road or going home.”
In one parking spot in Harstdale, a bench has been placed in a handicapped spot. A frustrated Raso emailed Feiner who asked her if she wanted to chair a committee on the issue.
“Everything happened very quickly,” Raso said on Friday. “I went to meet him on Wednesday and spoke at a town board meeting. I woke up yesterday and I already have people supporting this idea and wanting to get on the committee. I’m hoping to be a good chairwoman and lead.”
Raso said her first priority is to improve parking in parking lots, and make sure spots are wide enough to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and accommodate vans with handicap ramps.
“Even at Greenburgh Town Hall, I had a little trouble parking,” Raso said. “The Hartsdale post office has no accessible parking. My dad had to mail his own father’s day card.”
Raso would like to see places that are grandfathered by the ADA do more to accommodate people. She said in one ice cream store in Tarrytown, her sister has to come out and tell her the flavors of the ice cream.
“We should give everyone access,” Raso said.
Feiner has been praised for helping to kick-start the committee, with Raso noting that all it took was a simple email.
“I emailed him and by 7 p.m., I had to have a speech ready,” Raso said. “He’s been exceptional. It was a little overwhelming, but he told me I’m going to be great.”
The supervisor said he intends to check facilities around town with the committee making recommendations on how they can better accommodate the disabled.
“Most people don’t think about it, but these things can be addressed,” Feiner said. “This is one of the causes that I’ve always believed in. The town has been proactive but it could do more. You always think that you’re doing a lot, but you’re not really doing enough. ”
Feiner said that the average person might not think a crack on the sidewalk is a big deal but to a disabled person that could be the difference between staying in and going out.
“I really want to feel like we’re being helpful and that the disabled deserve a high quality of life,” Feiner said. “Actions speak louder than words. We really want to be responsible and make people who are disabled feel like they are important parts of the community.
Like Feiner, Raso said that many people take the ability to walk for granted, and said this often leads to ramps being placed in inconvenient locations or inadequate handicap spots.
“I don’t think they do it in a mean way,” Raso said. “We need more committees like this. Maybe companies or builders can have advisory boards.”
Raso said she has already had seven people e-mailing her about joining the committee, including a physical therapist who reached out.
For more information or to join the committee, email Angela at firstname.lastname@example.org.