Members of the Center for Disability Rights Wednesday rallied outside the Seymour Post Office to shine a light on a lack of accessibility into the building.
They are confident their message was delivered.
The Center for Disability Rights is based in West Haven but has members all over the Valley.
The post office at 91 Main St. can’t be accessed by wheelchair and advocates said the postal service isn’t doing enough to provide equal access.
CDR Executive Director Marc Anthony Gallucci said his staff and members, many of whom use wheelchairs, protested “to force the Post Office staff to come and serve us on the curb.”
The nonprofit organization seeks to raise awareness of the plight of those with mobility issues.
The entrance to the Seymour Post Office is accessed by a steep set of steps. There is no ramp, lift, or means for those with mobility issues to gain entrance into the building.
The nonprofit organization seeks to force the post office to comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
“The Postmaster is hiding behind the letter of the Americans with Disabilities Act while ignoring the fact that the USPS is required by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to make its services accessible to customers with disabilities,” Gallucci said.
“They have had 40 years to plan for access. Haven’t they had enough time? One must ask, why is it that the mail is ‘First Class’ but customers with disabilities are “Second Class’?”
Advocates said the post office has a ramp that can be used by wheelchairs in the back of the building, but employees have stopped allowing it to be used. The ramp is used by workers pushing large carts to get mail into the building.
The Postmaster has offered people with disabilities a phone number to call to request that the post office staff come to the curb, Gallucci said.
But Gallucci said this is unacceptable because:
- There is no signage or notice indicating that this option is available;
- The number is not being shared publicly;
- This option will not work for people who do not have cell phones or who, because of their disability, can’t easily use one; and
- The sidewalk area is hazardous; and in inclement weather, this option would not work.
Seymour resident Joseph Luciano, an advocate for the disabled, was the impetus behind the protest.
Luciano lives in downtown Seymour. He suffered a stroke several years ago and uses a wheelchair. Gallucci said Luciano worked on preparations for the rally and CDR contacted media, recruited participant and created signs.
Luciano held a sign Wednesday that read “First Class Mail Second Class Citizens with No Equal Access.” He said he feels like “a second-class citizen.”
Luciano has gained statewide media notoriety for his crusade to gain access to the post office — and downtown Seymour — since he moved to Seymour in 2011.
Luciano said when he complained about the lack of access, the post office established a phone number to call for service. “But you have to call two hours ahead,” he said. “We want service on demand.”
Kim Dulka, owner of the All-American Valley General Store in Seymour, showed her support for the protestors.
“We came to see our good friend Joe,” Dulka said. “He’s done a tremendous job in the community to raise awareness for persons with disabilities,” she said.
The Seymour Postmaster declined comment.
But Maureen Marion, a postal service spokeswoman, sent an email saying the building predates the Americans With Disabilities Act.
She released the following statement, which is printed below, without edit.
“As background, the Postal Service is subject to the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) of 1968 which requires that most Federal buildings leased or constructed after 1968 meet applicable standards for people who have a disability. This is not the same as the ADA. While any newly constructed or newly leased postal facility must be accessible before the building can be occupied, the Seymour facility predates this requirement. “
“In this case, we want to stress that postal regulations provide that postal programs will be offered without discrimination to disabled persons. (39 C.F.R. § 255.1/a/). However, the regulations allow for a very flexible approach to meeting this obligation, and may include such options as a special service arrangement as is offered in Seymour through a dedicated phone line for customers with special needs who require curbside service. At present, we are in compliance with our federally-mandated regulations for access to the service of the Seymour Post Office.
“In addition to the current offerings in Seymour, postal products and services may be obtained through a variety of additional channels, to include contract postal units, Stamps To Go consignment settings like grocery or drug stores, or through convenient home delivery through our Stamps By Mail program. To meet the growing demand of those who use online services, usps.com is one of the most frequently visited government sites with 1.2 billion visits in 2014 — averaging more than 3.4 million visitors each day. We are not exploring an alternate location, as was suggested, that would divorce Seymour’s postal retail operations from our carrier operations.”
While the Postal Service is hesitant to make any expensive changes to the building, federal lawmakers backed up the advocates this week in the form of this letter:
Editor’s Note: The writer is a member of the Center for Disability Rights.