This post by RCA
President Colin Mills was originally published on Reston Patch.
Sometimes the headlines don’t tell the whole story.  Since RCA has gotten so
on planning-related issues the last few weeks, you might think that RCA is now working
on the Master Plan and the Task Force exclusively. 
Not so!  We’re
continuing to stay on top of a variety of Reston-related issues.  As an example, let me share the latest updates
from Ken Fredgren’s hard-working Reston
Accessibility Committee
, as they continue their efforts to ensure that Reston’s
commercial buildings are accessible for all Restonians.
As you know, I love to recognize people who are doing good
work in the community.  The last time I
wrote about RAC, we had just issued our 2013 Community Partner Awards, which
honored individual Restonians who have helped RAC in its work and advocacy.  Last week, at a Rotary Club luncheon, Ken and
I presented the 2013 Universal Access Leadership awards.  These awards recognize members of the business community who have
distinguished themselves by making modifications to their premises, thus
creating safe and comfortable access for all customers.
This year,
RAC honored two longtime Reston institutions, Reston Hospital Center and South
Lakes Village Center.  Both made
significant changes to their properties this year, changes that made it a lot
easier for people with disabilities to get to and from their facilities.  And both organizations distinguished
themselves for their highly responsive and positive attitude in working with
RAC and making the needed changes.
Hospital Center
really stood out for their proactive approach to
accessibility.  As part of RAC’s
accessibility forum last year, they recorded a video in which a Restonian who
uses a wheelchair mentioned that she’d had trouble opening a bathroom door at
the hospital. 
the staff at RHC took action before the video even aired!  They caught wind of the concern, and they
immediately set about testing all of the hospital’s interior doors, and fixing
the ones that were too hard to open. 
This is a staff that cares!
If they had
just done that, it would have been impressive. 
But they weren’t finished.  RHC
representatives then reached out to RAC to ask for suggestions on how to make
the hospital more accessible.  This is
the first time I know of that a property owner reached out to RAC to ask for
RAC, working
with RHC VP of Community & Government Relations Tracey White and COO Jane
Raymond, performed an assessment of the property and produced some ideas for
improvement.  And RHC made those
The hospital now has
more accessible parking spaces, access aisles, curb ramps, curb cuts, and
crosswalks.  Some of the existing accessible spaces were relocated to
provide a more accessible route to the hospital buildings.  They even
moved their valet parking service to the main entrance to provide safer and
more comfortable access for patients with disabilities.
After all that, RHC staff is still working with RAC to
discuss some further ideas for making the hospital even more accessible.  Obviously, accessibility is paramount for a
hospital, so it’s not surprising that they were willing to make changes.  But the staff’s proactive approach and
responsiveness are admirable, and Ken reported that Tracey White and Jane
Raymond, in particular, were a delight to work with.  Reston Hospital Center obviously devoted to
serving its patients well.
The South
Lakes Village Center
project was initiated by RAC in response to citizen
concerns about the access challenges at the center.  RAC surveyed the property and found several
issues, most notably the accessible parking spaces that were located on steep
slopes, making them virtually impossible for people with wheelchairs or chair lifts
to use safely.
CBRE is the property management firm that administers the
village center, and their representatives Meghan Connifey and Scott Russo worked
with Ken to implement the improvements.   Meghan and Scott responded with
impressive speed to RAC’s report.  RAC
submitted its assessment to CBRE in May 2012; by January of this year, the
changes were complete.  That’s a quick
turnaround, especially considering all the changes they made.  Those included relocated of 3 APS and addition
of 4 more, as well as a new curb ramp, 2 new detectable warnings, and 2 new
RAC’s report also noted that one of the entrances to the South
Lakes Giant had the universal symbol of accessibility on it, but the door was
locked, thus making it completely inaccessible. 
When I stopped by to check out the changes at the village center, I
noticed that the locked door was gone, replaced by a new sliding door that is
truly accessible.  Well done!
In addition to honoring the successes of the past, RAC
continues to look forward in identifying new properties that can be made more
accessible.  They will soon be issuing an
assessment of Fox Mill Shopping Center, and they are also pursuing several
other projects that I’ll talk more about in the coming weeks. 
In addition, Ken is still working in Richmond to implement
changes to the state building codes to make it friendlier for people with
disabilities.  I hope to be able to
report on his success there soon.
If you’re curious about what RAC plans to do next, or if you’d
just like to thank them for their tireless advocacy, you can stop by the Farmer’s
Market at Lake Anne on Saturday, September 9th.  You’ll be able to meet some of RAC’s terrific
volunteers, and maybe even become one yourself if you’re so inclined.

When a major issue like the Comprehensive Plan comes up, it’s
tempting to let it take up all of your time; certainly it could.  But issues like accessibility, while they may
not have the same sense of urgency, are just as important to the
community.  I’m delighted that Ken and
RAC are continuing their terrific work to make Reston more accessible.  RAC may not get a lot of headlines, but they’re
performing a vital service to the community.