To make Baytown a better place for all residents, our community has to be accessible to all residents. That’s part of the Access Baytown initiative, led by Brian Moran, that includes a newly formed advisory committee and survey.
Brian Moran, Assistant to the City Manager said, “The formation of the committee was about seeking public input and feedback on what are our barriers to accessibility to our programs, services, activities, as well as our facilities, playgrounds, infrastructure that we provide to our residents.”
The Access Baytown Advisory Committee is made up of important area stakeholders from Harris County Transit, TXDOT, Lee College and Goose Creek CISD. Each one has a vested interest in helping Baytown’s disabled.
K-leigh Villanueva, with Lee College, said, “Accessibility for everybody is a necessity.”
David Jones, with Harris County Transit, said, “The ADA standards help everybody.”
Sheri Thomas, Dyslexia Specialist with Goose Creek CISD, said, “I think that everyone on the committee is dedicated to Baytown and that we want to make sure that we are here for everyone.”
Helping the disabled really hits home for committee members like Sheri.
She said, “It’s really opened my eyes to know that there are things that need to be done. I do have disabled family members and so that just brings it to my attention even more.”
For Sheri, this new committee and the information shared has already been beneficial.
She said, “I pick out things and I can see things after our discussion. It’s like ‘oh that is a difficult place to maneuver through or how to get into this building’ and there are different things that are standing out now and I did not know about that. Now I did know some from my family members because they would say some things, but knowing the extent of it is what opened my eyes a lot.”
Kristi Avalos, with Accessology, said, “Access works for everybody. Not having access doesn’t work for everybody.”
Kristi is a consultant for the Access Baytown committee.
She said, “We’re looking at everything. We’ve looked at every building and every park and every segment of sidewalk and every program that is offered and every department. We’re looking at everything to develop the City’s ADA transition plan. Then we will take the information and put it into a usable format that makes it a living document.”
The first goal of Access Baytown is for disabled and those who work with the disabled to fill out an online survey at baytownengage.com.
Avalos said, “We don’t live in their world and what we might think as an abled body person, what I might think is their highest priority, they might come in and go ‘that’s not even on my list.’ So it allows us to prioritize the remediation process.’”
Access Baytown advisors and committee members want as many people as possible to fill out the survey.
Moran said, “Without their voice, without their information, without their input, we’re not going to be able to address those concerns and those issues they may face on a day to day basis that we’re not aware of it.”
Jones said, “With that survey, there’s things we don’t know so if they complete the survey, we will know where the problems are and then we can address them.”
“If you don’t raise a voice or if you pass it on to someone else or say ‘someone will do it next time’ the issue may never become known,” said Villanueva.
Thomas added, “That’s what they are living in and having to deal with and we want to know those. We want to know them because we want to help make living in Baytown the best it can be.”
The survey will wrap up October 31st and the results will be shared with City Council and other leaders by the end of the year or beginning of 2023. However, the committees work will continue well into the future, alongside those who need this help the most.
Avalos said, “There’s the letter of the law and there’s the spirit of the law. A lot of entities just want to follow the letter of the law and do as little as possible. Some communities, like Baytown, just embrace it and say ‘look this is a civil rights issue.’ People with disabilities have been put on the back burner for decades. I mean this law has been in place for 32 years and it’s really now just getting momentum and get things like this going. It’s crucially important that they stay involved. It’s crucially important that they’re not afraid to give their opinions and that they communicate to their constituents so that they get involved as well.”
She added, “If you’re trying to build a community that people can move into in their 20’s and 30’s and still be there in their 80’s and 90’s, and still be active members of civic life, then accessibility is the way to do that.”
For more information on Access Baytown, visit baytown.org and take the survey at baytownengage.com.