Get news updates and more — sign up for our newsletter at chelmsford.wickedlocal.com. westford.wickedlocal.com, and littleton.wickedlocal.com.
Please support local journalism by subscribing at https://explore.mypapertoday.com/wickedlocalpremium.
LITTLETON — Erich Manser serves on the town’s Disability Commission — and advocates for increasing access for all residents.
Manser, who is visually impaired, works in digital accessibility, and also advocates for adaptive athletics — modifications in activities, movements or facilities to meet physical limitations.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Manser recently spoke about the impact the law has made, the commission’s efforts, and why he believes accessibility is an issue for all residents.
Please tell me about your role with the town’s Disability Commission.
I am a member-at-large with Littleton’s Disability Commission where I serve in an advisory capacity as both a Littleton resident and a person with a disability myself.
How and when did you get involved?
I became active with the commission in 2017, when another Littleton friend and neighbor who is very active in the town let me know about vacancies within the Disability Commission, and suggested I consider taking on the role.
As someone who works in digital accessibility, who is also an active disability rights advocate and activist nationally in adaptive athletics, it seemed to make sense to also become active locally in the town where I and my family live.
Why is this work important to you?
We can’t expect to have diverse viewpoints heard or understood unless we’re willing to become active and vocal about sharing them.
Whenever decisions are being made that effect our town or community, it’s important that people representing broad perspectives have input in those conversations.
My aim in joining the commission is to act as a reminder about the broad spectrum of human needs & abilities, while also working to engage Littleton’s disabled and aging community more deeply in conversations about those different needs.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. What impact has this law made?
The [Americans with Disabilites Act’s] 30th anniversary is very exciting, as it’s the first legislation enacted specifically to protect the rights of people with disabilities in all aspects of life, whether in employment, transportation, entertainment, etc.
While the Americans with Disabilities Act represents significant progress, there is still much work to be done, and it’s important that the legislation continue to grow and evolve to keep up with society and technology –such as updating to more explicitly and specifically cover online protections in an increasingly digital world.
Most human beings will encounter some degree of disability or physical impairment at some point in their lifetimes, so it’s essential that the [Americans with Disabilities Act] not be viewed as fringe legislation, but rather, protections that are essential to every one of us.
What would you like the community to know most of all about disabilities and access?
That it’s not a “them” issue, it’s an “us” issue, and literally affects all of us, to one degree or another, directly or indirectly.
When making decisions about the community we want to live in, expanding our thoughts to account for and include people of all abilities is a powerful way of building a richer, more equitable place to live.