By RCA President Colin Mills

With the RCA election in full swing (vote now!) and
my time as President winding down, I’ve been trying to fill you in on what we’re
doing before I depart.  It occurs to me that
I haven’t talked about the Reston Accessibility
lately.  Happily, Ken
Fredgren and his committee are still working hard to make Reston’s commercial
buildings and facilities more accessible to people with disabilities.  This week, I’ll bring you up to date on some
of their most recent projects.
When I last discussed RAC’s work, I shared the success of a
major effort by Ken and other advocates to make
Virginia’s building codes friendlier
for people with disabilities.  This was a major, multi-year effort, and I’m
thrilled that it came to fruition.  But I
know the completion of that effort was also something of a relief for RAC’s
chair.  He no longer needs to travel back
and forth to Richmond, and he’s able to focus his efforts back home in
Reston.  That renewed focus is reaping
significant benefits for the community.
Because most RAC projects deal with outdoor facilities
(parking lots, sidewalks, and the like), construction tends to take place in
the warmer months.  This can make winter
a somewhat frustrating time for RAC, as progress slows down considerably.  The bright side is that come springtime,
there’s often a surge as several projects move forward almost
simultaneously.  I will report on three
projects in this installment, but there’s more good work in progress.
Two of RAC’s recent successes are actually updates on long-standing
projects.  One of them, Hunters Woods
Village Center, is actually up for a third go-round.  In 2009, RAC worked with the then-owners to
add accessible parking spaces and access aisles, curb cuts, and
crosswalks.  When Edens & Avant
purchased the center in 2012 and planned to redesign the parking lot, RAC
engaged them to ensure that the existing improvements would be preserved.  Not only were the improvements retained, but
the accessible spaces were moved closer to the buildings, making them even more
There was one remaining holdup: At RAC’s suggestion, Edens
had promised to add additional accessible spaces to the lot.  Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication with
the paving contractor, no additional spaces were added.  Ken maintained a good-faith dialog with
Edens, and last month, he found that a new accessible space and access aisles
had been added, replacing two regular parking spaces.  Kudos to Ken for his persistence, and to
Edens for keeping their word to make Hunters Woods more accessible.
The second project is at Reston Corner, the office park
where RA’s headquarters is located.  In
2009, RAC made a series of recommendations for the building at 12007 Sunrise
Valley Drive: addition of automatic entrance doors, the addition of access
aisles and curb ramps in the parking lot, and an update to the signs on the
accessible parking spaces.  The doors were
installed, the signs were updated, and the access aisles were added;
unfortunately, the contractor didn’t install curb ramps or correct the slope of
the accessible spaces.  This meant that
people with disabilities could now get out of their cars, but they couldn’t get
safely from the accessible spaces to the sidewalk.
RAC met with representatives of Cassidy Turley, the property
manager, and made a clever suggestion: add asphalt to the accessible spaces to
raise them up to the level of the curb. 
This would both fix the slope of the spaces and allow safe access to the
sidewalk without having to install curb ramps. Cassidy Turley adopted the
suggestion, and last month, they revamped the spaces to make them fully
accessible and compliant with ADA regulations.
When Ken drove by the lot to check out the improvements, he
spotted a woman helping her mother, who uses a walker, out of the car in one of
the improved spaces.  He asked the woman
what she thought of the new layout, and she said, “It’s so much better!”  This was a
perfect example of how RAC’s efforts make concrete improvements in the lives of
people with disabilities.
RAC’s third project deals with Carrabba’s Restaurant.  Ken brought the site to RAC’s attention when
he noticed that their parking lot contained only two accessible spaces.  The law requires three accessible spaces for
a lot that size, and given Carrabba’s popularity, RAC felt that four spaces
would better reflect the need.  The signs
on the accessible spaces were also in need of updating.
RAC contacted the restaurant’s owner.  He replaced the signs right away, but said
that Carrabba’s corporate headquarters would need to address the accessible
spaces.  RAC followed up with corporate,
only to discover that the site’s landlord was in charge of the parking
lot.  Undeterred, RAC reached out to Dwoskin,
the property manager, to follow up.
Happily, Dwoskin was responsive to RAC’s outreach, and made
plans to add accessible spaces.  They
were scheduled to complete the work early this month; the next time I go for
dinner there, I will check it out myself.
All in all, not a bad haul for the past month!  (Of course, all of these successes are the
result of months or even years of calls, emails, letters, meetings, and
friendly but persistent effort by the RAC team.)  As the warmer weather continues, RAC should
have more progress to report soon.
Working with Ken Fredgren and RAC on behalf of Restonians
with disabilities has been a highlight of my time with RCA.  Ken is an inspiration and a true friend, and
the members of RAC are a pleasure to work with. 
That’s why, even though I’m stepping off the RCA Board, I plan to
continue working with RAC.  I believe in
RAC’s mission, and I want to see their successes continue.

If you share my support for improving access to Reston’s buildings
and facilities, I hope that you’ll become a member of RAC.  The bigger RAC grows, the more good they’ll
be able to do for the community.  I hope
to see you at RAC’s next meeting.