May 26, 2019

Inclusive library vision

A recent letter from Kathy Burke, the new president of the Board of Trustees at Porter Memorial Library, encouraged me.

Unlike recent statements from her predecessor, this letter was forthcoming about the fact that this newly restored Machias landmark is still not open tothe entire public.

I value our library, have contributed to the fund-raisers, and looked forward to its grand reopening. Unfortunately, at the otherwise festive open house, I learned that I belong to the one minority group barred from entering the building.

Apparently, despite years of planning and $700,000 spent repairing and “modernizing” the library, it was not considered a top priority that people with disabilities have access. Hopefully, this will now change.

I know that my life has been deeply enriched by a love of reading fostered by weekly family outings to our local library. It is simply wrong that anyone in our community be deprived of a similar opportunity. I wonder if some on the board truly understand the treasure that those beautifully restored walls contain.

The excuses have been plentiful, but unconvincing. Perhaps “additional money” might not have been needed had universal design been considered at the outset. The “historical authenticity” of the building evidently was not threatened by the addition of computers, so I suspectit would have survived a handicapped entrance as well.

A concern for the “compromised aesthetic qualities” had also been raised. A gently curved ramp bordered in stone would be more visually appealing than “an uninspired stack of steps.

Finally, the rationale that an ADA loophole may “not require” accessibility is just sad.

I thank the board of trustees for saving the library building. “I strongly encourage Burke and any open-minded members to pursue their more inclusive vision for the future.

Claire Riepe


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