Fairfax County Building Safety Month 2013 Community Partnership Award, presented April 30, 2013

Courtesy of the Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs

Good morning, chairman Bulova, Supervisors and Director Clark.

I’m Ken Fredgren, chairman of Reston Accessibility Committee, commonly called “RAC.” Committee members Carol Bradley, John Lovaas and Marion Stillson are with us today.

For RAC’s service to be recognized with the Community Partnership Award is both humbling and gratifying, and the members of the committee and of the Reston Citizens Association Board, are most grateful.

For our advocacy for people with disabilities to be affirmed by in this way is gratifying especially because of the use of the words “safety,” (Building Safety Month), and “community” and “partnership,” the messages of the award.

For years RAC has been saying in many venues that accessibility improvements are needed as safety measures, and our mission statement begins with the action verb “partnering” and includes the ideal, “community.” It reads

“Partnering throughout the greater Reston community to improve access for persons with mobility impairments.”

So far, RAC has partnered successfully with the owners and property managers of one community center (in cooperation with Supervisor Hudgins’ staff), one hospital, three office parks, and six shopping centers to achieve ADA-compliant exterior access routes. Those improved accessible routes include accessible parking spaces, van accessible parking spaces, accessible parking signs, access aisles, detectable warnings, traffic crossings, and entrance doors.

Serving on the state-wide work group mandated by Ken Plum’s bill has been a challenging advocacy experience. After many trips to meetings in Richmond, the end is not yet in sight, but hopefully by the end of this year results will be on the plus side.

Finally, two personal notes. First, when this advocacy began five years ago, I knew a lot about physical disability and nothing about disability rights. For much of what I have learned, I thank Matt Barkley of Disability Services Planning and Development and Audrey Clark of Land Development Services for fast and faultless information, and Marion Stillson, former president of RCA, for giving me the challenge to learn and to serve in Reston.

Thanks also to Ken Plum for the opportunity to serve on the state level; Supervisor Hudgins and Goldie Harrison and Casey Hanes of her staff for support at critical moments; Colin Mills, president of RCA, for his consistent affirmation; and Reston Association, Reston Community Center and Reston Interfaith for selfless, unfailing support.

Second, I have a wish. I wish that Fairfax County could create a proactive process to address sites where accessibility is lacking. So far, it is up to a tiny band of volunteers serving in a very small area containing approximately 5% of the county’s population. (The corollary to that is that the area including 95% of the county’s population is not being reached.) The county has the authority to require and enforce the provision of compliant accessible parking signs. A sign inspection by a county official could lead to correcting noncompliant accessible parking spaces as well.

We in RAC thank all of you for this honor and for this time with you.