Jill Johanning, an architect for the organization Alpha One, spoke to a group in Bucksport last month for a “Know Your Rights” presentation about the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA turned 25 this year. PHOTO BY CHARLES EICHACKER

Bucksport program focuses on Americans with Disabilities Act

BUCKSPORT — The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law 25 years ago, due in part to the efforts of people like Pat Ranzoni.

Ranzoni, the town’s poet laureate, used to be a teacher, but had to end that career at the age of 43, when she developed a movement disorder known as dystonia. The condition prevents Ranzoni from driving or participating in many community activities.

Seeking others in similar circumstances, Ranzoni eventually helped form the Bucksport Association of Handicapped Persons. The group was among those that pushed for the 1990 passage of the ADA.

Over the years, other groups have continued to push for greater accessibility and opportunity for Mainers with disabilities.

One of those, Alpha One, focuses on disability issues around the state. In November, two of its staff members came here for a presentation on what people in the Bucksport area can do if they believe a business, organization or municipality has violated their rights under the ADA.

The audience included Ranzoni and members of the Bucksport Bay Healthy Communities Coalition, which helped organize the event and has actively worked to make this a more accessible town for people who cannot get around easily.

While Maine has come a long way since 1990, according to Alpha One occupational therapist Chris Delenick, the state is still far from perfect when it comes to helping people with disabilities.

“I’d feel comfortable saying that everywhere in Maine, that there’s some issue with access,” Delenick said at the start of the meeting.

For example, Delenick said his group carried out an informal survey of buildings in a 12-block section of Portland and found fewer than 5 percent of them to be fully compliant with ADA guidelines. Those buildings included a post office and City Hall.

The ADA, Delenick explained, consists of three sections, or as they are known in legalese, “titles.”

Title I prevents employers from discriminating against potential hirees. Title II — the most complicated, Delenick said — focuses on state and local governments. Title III focuses on the accessibility of stores, restaurants and other public accommodations.

While the rules are complicated and violations of the ADA are determined on a case-by-case basis, Delenick and fellow Alpha One staff member Jill Johanning said, there are several free, useful resources for someone with a disability who is concerned that his or her rights have been violated.

Resources related to the Americans with Disabilities Act

Disability Rights Maine, phone: (800) 452-1948: This agency provides education and free legal guidance for anyone worried that their ADA rights have been violated.

Maine Human Rights Commission, phone: 624-6290: This is the state agency charged with enforcing all of Maine’s anti-discrimination laws. It was created under the Maine Human Rights Act. According to the Alpha One presenters, complaints should be filed with the MHRC as soon as possible after the incidents in question.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Boston area office, phone: (800) 669-4000: This federal agency has a regional office in Boston and is responsible for the enforcement of federal disability laws.

Alpha One, Bangor office: (800) 300-6016.

Charles Eichacker

Charles Eichacker

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Charles Eichacker covers the towns of Bucksport, Orland, Castine, Verona Island, Penobscot, Brooksville and Dedham. When not working on stories, he likes books, beer and the outdoors. [email protected]

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