Belmar’s ADA panel plans for ‘rebirth’ despite pandemic

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BELMAR — Left on the back burner due to the coronavirus, the borough’s Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA] Committee said last week that members hope to jump-start its work as an educational resource for persons with special needs, as well as senior citizens.

Meetings, which are open to the public, had been canceled due to the coronavirus. The group’s first meeting in months will be held on Thursday, Sep. 17 at Maclearie Park.

The group was founded 12 years ago to ensure that there were enough ramps and access points for those with disabilities, has since expanded as a resource for families and an organizer of events to help create a space for those with disabilities to meet up.

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“I think it’s educating the town that ADA is here, there is so much available and I don’t think that half that town knows about it,” said Councilwoman Pat Wann, the borough’s liaison to the committee. “We have so many new residents coming in, they certainly don’t know.”

The group is currently working on creating a website, to help connect with residents. According to Louise, an original member of the committee and a member of the borough’s first aid squad, the group is experiencing a “rebirth” after a slump caused by a change in membership.

“We just got a new burst of energy to get going, and then COVID hit, so we want to get started and we are motivated to get things going and to get information out to the public,” Councilwoman Wann said.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, mandates protection against discrimination to those with a disability, whether it be physical or mental.

The borough’s ADA Committee was established by former mayor Ken Pringle, with the goal of promoting handicap accessibility in buildings and public areas in the borough, with members appointed by the mayor.

“The original intent was to make the town more ADA compliant. We didn’t have curb cuts, we didn’t have any of that,” said Louie Anderson, an original member of the committee. Her experience working at The Arc of Monmouth led then-mayor Ken Pringle to ask her to join the newly established committee.

“We used to walk up and down, throughout the town to find things that were not ADA compliant,” she added. The committee would push for building entrances to be handicap accessible to for existing businesses to have handicap accessible bathrooms.

Ms. Anderson said that one of her proudest moments on the committee was bringing in mobility mats. She says Belmar was one of the first towns in the area to install the mats, which help those with mobility issues move around on the beachfront. They also helped to bring in special wheelchairs to the beach, which are wheelchairs with larger wheels to help those with mobility issues access the beachfront.

The group also worked to educate families of those with disabilities about the resources available to them. Those involved, including Ms. Anderson, Carole Anne Cupoli, JoAnne DeBenedictis and Claire Deicke, have experience as educators and advocates for those with special needs.

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