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Town Center's Accessibility Questioned

People with disabilities need to make special arrangements to visit Reston Town Center’s core.

Linda Singer, a 30-year Reston resident, loves the Reston Town Center — its restaurants, the movie theater, the shops, all of it. One of her favorite eateries is Clyde’s of Reston, located at the core of the center adjacent to the pavilion.

Recently, though, Singer has had to cancel weekend plans to Clyde’s at the last minute because of street barriers around the core that prevent her from being dropped off. A few months ago, Singer began using a walker while recovering from a bout with toxic myositis caused by her cholesterol medication. Singer, who has arthritis, normally uses a cane.

Since using the walker, Singer has tried to have lunch at the town center restaurant on the weekends, but the barriers have made it impossible for her to get dropped off on Market Street, the main street that runs down the heart of the town center.

“The last time, we actually went and saw a security guard,” said Singer. The guards, she said, told her that they were not permitted to allow any cars through for a drop-off whether they had handicap sticker or not. There wasn’t a special event going on either, said Singer, who understood why their might not be exceptions when one of the big festivals or other events were taking place.

While management at Clyde’s has always offered to accommodate her needs, said Singer, they require advance notice, which isn’t always possible. “We should be able to get in somehow,” said Singer.

EQUITY OFFICE, which owns and manages the Reston Town Center, has long had a policy to restrict cars from traveling on Market Street and other streets on the weekends and during special events to ensure the safety of pedestrians.

A representative from Equity said this is the first time he’s ever heard of an accessibility problem at the popular Reston destination. “We want to make sure that our property is available to everybody,” said Peter P. Pedraza, Equity’s director of public relations. “This is a big company. We’re in the customer service industry and we want to be sure any complaints or concerns are addressed head-on.”

The Equity policy, Pedraza said, is to accommodate anyone’s needs. “It is my understanding that they need to notify the business that their attending, and then security will be notified [to move the barriers],” said Pedraza, adding that the notification should be at least 10 minutes in advance to ensure a guard is available.

“Whenever we know about a guest’s special needs, we go out of our way to make all accommodations possible to satisfy those needs," said Nicole Quist, general manager, Clyde's of Reston, in a statement.

DESPITE THE EFFORTS of businesses, others in the community can see how a strict policy that closes core Reston Town Center streets could affect accessibility.

“I didn’t realize it was a problem, but I would see how it could be,” said Marion Stillson, an accessibility advocate and longtime Reston resident.

Stillson, who has used a wheelchair for nearly 30 years, feels that cars with handicap stickers should be allowed to pass so people with disabilities can be dropped off. “There are similar exceptions throughout the country,” said Stillson.

Earlier this year Stillson attended Viva Vienna and needed to be dropped off at a booth. Since many streets were closed, she asked a police officer if she could be dropped off. “The officer said, ‘No problem,’” said Stillson.

Singer and Stillson both agree that the town center could adopt a more flexible policy for people with disabilities, something that doesn’t put the burden on them to receive special access to the center.

“It’s not appropriate to have a blanket policy that excludes people,” said Stillson.

In the meantime, those with special accessibility needs will need to make special arrangements when visiting the Reston Town Center on the weekends.

"Security guards at Reston Town Center are available to provide assistance for our tenants and their visitors when requested. Security officers can be reached at 571-237-0282 or 0284. Or visitors can call the Equity Office Customer Service Center at 202-331-1800,” said Pedraza in a statement.