Methuen Access

Methuen Access



Mediated agreement will improve handicapped access at high school

METHUEN — The city has settled a complaint over handicapped accessibility for parking spaces at Methuen High School.

Mayor Neil Perry and the complainant last week signed a mediated plan to resolve alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act at the school parking lot.

Sid Harris, a disability advocate in the city, filed complaints with U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights three weeks ago, claiming the parking spaces at the high school were not handicapped accessible, in violation of the ADA.

“It is unfortunate that it took filing a complaint to bring about change, despite years of advocacy for accessibility in the area,” Harris said.

The parking issue includes accessible spots for the main entrance, auditorium, baseball field, ice rink and field house, Harris said.

“The city has engaged an engineering firm to complete the Methuen High School Renovation Projects,” according to the resolution letter.

The city agreed to bring the parking lot into compliance prior to the start of the 2024-25 school year. This is to include parking at the rear and front entrances of the ice rink, at the main entrance of the fieldhouse and at the main entrance of the high school.

Walkways and seating areas will be remediated at the tennis court and baseball field, and all walkways surrounding the high school be in compliance.

The resolution also addressed the issue of access to the new electric vehicle charging stations at the school.

“I think it went well,” Harris said. “I’ve been trying to get the city to sit down for years.”

Perry did not respond to a request for comment, but the School Committee will discuss the issue at its meeting on Monday.

The Office for Civil Rights will not “monitor or enforce” the mediation agreements, according to its resolution letter.

“I’m looking forward to hopefully having the opportunity to sit down with the mayor and have a plan to avoid these ADA violations in the future,” Harris said. “There’s still a lot to be done.”

Harris said he has documented “hundreds of ADA violations” throughout the city over the years. Methuen’s most recent ADA Transitional Plan dates back to 2001.

“Despite the date of this plan, the city has made considerable progress in advancing accessibility and continually working on improving its facilities,” ADA and DEI Coordinator Sandy Almonte previously wrote in an email.

The city addresses residents’ complaints monthly through reporting on SeeClickFix, according to Almonte.

At present, multiple complaints about the lack of  accessibility at the high school parking lot remain open.

The complaints, made on Oct. 5 by Commission on Disability member Keith Hatch, focus on the distances traveled from parking spaces to an accessible entrance.

When accessible entrances cannot be located within 200 feet of a parking spot, a passenger drop-off area must be provided with 100 feet of the entrance, according to Hatch’s complaint.

The distance from the lower parking area, from the last accessible space, to the main accessible entrance is 559 feet; to the auditorium is 438 feet; and the ice rink entrance is 565 feet away.

The complaint also notes that the slope in eight of the parking spaces exceeds the maximum allowance of 2%. They are between 3.7% and 4%, according to Hatch.

Hatch’s complaints also cite sidewalk deficiencies at the intersection of Jackson Street and Ranger Road.

“I hope at the end of the day this initiates collaboration between the city and people with disabilities,” Harris said.

Follow Monica on Twitter at @MonicaSager3

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