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A weekly message from Commissioner McCosh in support of the local disability community.

Dear Disability Community Members,

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving. Although our celebrations may have looked a lot different this year than in years past, the meaning behind this annual tradition remained the same - to give thanks to the people in our lives whom we cherish.

In the spirit of that holiday, I would like to give thanks to our local disability advocates. In Boston, the disability advocacy community is well informed, organized, and deeply committed. Together with national disability advocates, they helped push through the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) over thirty years ago. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, places of public accommodation, and local government. It is fair to say that the ADA may not have become the law of the land without the hard work of many of our local disability advocates.

On that note, I would like to pay tribute to one of the most dedicated disability advocates in Boston who, sadly, passed away last week - John Winske.

John was an instrumental leader in Boston's disability community who was well-respected and beloved by his colleagues and friends. He was also a personal mentor of mine. His work on behalf of people with disabilities spanned across decades, and the agencies he devoted his talents to ranged from BCIL to DPC to the City of Boston Disability Commission Advisory Board. In fact, John was one of the founding members of our Board. 

In 2009, John and some of his fellow disability advocates reached out to City leaders to call for change. The advocates had been working tirelessly to improve accessibility in Boston, but felt that they were not being heard. John knew it was critical for individuals with disabilities to have a seat at the table and a voice in decision making - nothing about us without us. 

Thanks to the hard work of John and his colleagues, the City of Boston reinstated the Disability Commission Advisory Board, which had been dormant for almost 20 years. The Board is made up of 13 volunteer members who provide input on issues of importance to people with disabilities who live, work, and visit Boston. John served as a Board member for over ten years.

When I began my job as Commissioner in 2010, I often turned to the Advisory Board members for input and guidance. I especially relied on John. He was the person I called when I didn't know what to do. If I was faced with an impossible situation, I called John. He would talk me through it until we eventually figured out a path forward. I owe John a great deal of thanks.

The City of Boston Disability Commission Advisory Board holds public meetings every month, and encourages members of the public to attend to offer their own input on the issues being discussed. The next meeting takes place on Wednesday, December 9, 2020, beginning at 5:30pm. Please feel free to join us for this virtual meeting!

In closing, I would also like to thank each of my Advisory Board members for their service to the City of Boston. We are very lucky and grateful to have them all as members of our Board. 

As always, please feel free to reach out to us if you need assistance. You can dial 311 to reach City Hall or call us at 617-635-3682. Our email is disability@boston.gov and the latest updates are available at Boston.gov. 

Until next week, please stay informed, stay safe, and stay healthy. 

Sincerely,

Commissioner Kristen McCosh

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