Special education, transportation a priority for residents with disabilities

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North Attleborough Town Hall
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More than half of respondents said the town should invest more in special education and transportation in next year’s budget, according to a survey conducted by the town’s Commission on Disability.

Of the 126 people that took part in the survey, 106 said special education services provided by the school district should receive more funding for the Fiscal Year 2025 budget. In addition, 28 said the town should prioritize improving sidewalk infrastructure, parks and recreation accessibility, and transportation options for those with physical disabilities such as visual and mobility impairments.

The survey also found that the most frequently identified disabilities among respondents were developmental. A combined 64 respondents said they were diagnosed with one or more developmental disabilities, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD. Forty-nine said they had a physical disability, and the third most frequent was mental illness with 31 respondents

The survey was conducted online and on paper from October to November. Members of the commission sent out flyers at town events encouraging people to take the survey.

Commission Chairman Paul Keenan said there was overlap in the answers gave to the survey. Keenan said the majority of those who took part in the survey were 5-18 years old, showing why special education was seen as the most popular choice.

“We did find it interesting that there was such a heavy focus on special educational needs, especially when compared to things like physical accessibility in town,” Keenan said. “However, it reinforces one of our core messages that disabilities are not limited to the visible/physical type.”

While most respondents answered that North Attleborough is a good place to live for those with disabilities, they said that having information on where to find available resources would help improve the quality of their lives.

“People seem to relate a bit more to children with these disabilities, but do not have an understanding or tolerance once these children grow up,” one respondent said. “They may not physically look different, but they and their families want to be accepted for who they are.”

Respondents also want to see more action on transportation services in recreational and medical situations. They said there is a lack of available resources, such as ambulances for those with special medical needs.

“There doesn’t seem to be a centralized place to go for questions around transportation, recreation, volunteering, or employment,” another respondent said. “We have to generally go into Attleboro for assistance.”

According to Kennan, the purpose of the survey was to identify the number of individuals in the town who have one or more disabilities. The survey asked respondents for feedback on the town’s services, including transportation, building accessibility and school paraprofessionals.

Keenan said the results illuminate the need for public engagement between the disability community and the rest of the town. While the requests to increase funding won’t be considered until next year’s budget hearing, Kennan said the commission would continue to conduct surveys to gauge feedback from those with disabilities in North Attleborough.

“This was not a one-time thing,” Kennan said. “The plan would be to conduct a survey like this on a regular basis, perhaps every two years. That will allow us to continue to gather fresh data from the community, while also allowing us to monitor trends from the baseline information we obtained this time around.”