FRAMINGHAM – City of Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer held a coffee hour with constituents on Saturday morning at Miranda Bread, a small business on Route 135.
This was the Mayor’s sixth coffee hour this year, and her 16th since taking office on January 1 2018.
The Mayor’s office has advertised her coffee hours as a way for residents and business owners to discuss issues and ideas with the city’s first Mayor.
But Saturday’s coffee was not accessible to all. The small business, while compliant with the city’s code and rules, was not handicap accessible.
The Mayor’s spokesperson said the Mayor was “not aware” the location at 470 Waverly Street was not accessible to all.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires restaurants to be handicapped accessible. However, restaurants that opened for first occupancy before the 1990 act, do not have to be fully accessible, under federal law.
The only way into Saturday’s small business, which offers delicious breads and desserts, food, and coffee was to climb four concrete stairs.
That meant, that anyone with a wheel chair would not have access to the Mayor.
“To hold a coffee hour at an inaccessible location is shocking, sad and disappointing especially when the Mayor speaks about diversity and inclusion for all,” said the chair of the Framingham Disability Commission Karen Dempsey.
The disabled are a protected class of citizens under the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, just like gender, race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
From the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division “Title II requires city governments to ensure that all of their programs, services, and activities, when viewed in their entirety, are accessible to people with disabilities. Program access is intended to remove physical barriers to city services, programs, and activities, but it generally does not require that a city government make each facility, or each part of a facility, accessible. For example, each restroom in a facility need not be made accessible. However, signage directing people with disabilities to the accessible features and spaces in a facility should be provided. Program accessibility may be achieved in a variety of ways. City governments may choose to make structural changes to existing facilities to achieve access. But city governments can also pursue alternatives to structural changes to achieve program accessibility. For example, city governments can move public meetings to accessible buildings and can relocate services for individuals with disabilities to accessible levels or parts of buildings. When choosing between possible methods of program accessibility, however, city governments must give priority to the choices that offer services, programs, and activities in the most integrated setting appropriate.”
This was the first time the Mayor had selected a location that was not accessible to all.
The Mayor has held coffees at Sofa Cafe, the Saxonville Mills Cafe, B Sisters Cafe, all of which are accessible to all individuals.
“The Civil Rights of all people including people with disabilities must be a forethought and not an afterthought,” said Dempsey. “Not only is it the law but more importantly it is the right thing to do.”
Earlier this month, the Mayor hosted a community conversation on equity and inclusion. One of the speakers was Susie Santone of the Framingham Disability Commission, who spoke on the importance of access for all.
The Mayor’s spokesperson said the “Mayor likes to mix up the locations, preferring locally-owned shops,” when selecting a place for her coffee hours outside City Hall.
The Mayor has held six coffee hours outside of City Hall in 2019, and 10 coffee hours outside City Hall in 2018.
There are 9 City districts. The Mayor has yet to hold a coffee in each of the nine City districts.