I have learned a lot in the past couple of years from families affected by disability in our town, who meet unimaginable adversity with grace, strength, and humor. I guess I learned enough evidently that I conjured up the nerve to write this Letter which is not a comfortable thing for me to do.
I have progressive multiple sclerosis. I use an electric wheelchair and am lucky and blessed to be able to venture outside of my home. I have never been on the Reformatory Branch Trail. That’s a place where my husband and son go and my friends and their families go and I accepted that it is off limits for me. When my family enjoys time together outdoors, we rely, weather-depending, on a handful of local accessible locations. We primarily use the Minuteman Trail and our neighborhood streets.
I used to be a healthy person who traveled with ease to explore a walking or hiking trail. Now with more perspective, I also understand the fantasy of having local access to nature trails-for-all that are well-managed and safe. Disabled people are not on a mission to pave nature trails. We know access to nature can improve any person’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being. If I thought the town and state had plans to destroy the Reformatory Branch Trail, I would not be in favor of this project at all. But after reading the town’s FAQ (link is here), I do not think that is what’s happening.
There are people in our town in favor of this project, including me, because it will open up a local trail-for-all and that is a wonderful thing when it can happen. The most defining aspect of a truly accessible trail is having the proper organization and resources to maintain it. That’s what the vote is about in November.
A larger issue for the Bedford disability community is being able to safely attend town meetings and vote. I encourage the Select Board and Town Manager to keep improving town meeting accessibility. If you have a specific request for the town to help you make attending town meeting more accommodating for your disability, please call the town and make your voice heard.