First Selectman Jim Marpe, in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, said he is working to establish a new town commission to help more fully integrate the needs of people with disabilities into community life.

The planned Commission on People with Disabilities, Marpe said in a statement, “will move beyond the requirements of the ADA ... to ensure that Westport is a town where people with disabilities have the opportunity to enjoy full and equal access to lives of independence, productivity, inclusion and self-determination.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act, signed July 26, 1990, is designed to prohibit discrimination and provide equal opportunity for people with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities and transportation.

“Since that time, the town of Westport has made numerous strides in compliance and achieving the goals set forth in the ADA,” Marpe said.

For example, he said, in February 2007, the Human Services Commission and the Westport Weston United Way established the Community Inclusion Task Force in an effort to improve the quality of life for residents of all ages with disabilities of all kinds.

“According to the CITF research, U.S. Census data suggests that approximately 10 to 15 percent of the Westport population reports having a disability,” the first selectman said.

In response to the task force’s recommendation, a municipal agent for people with disabilities was appointed. The agent is responsible for assessing the needs of people with disabilities and their families in the community, coordinating and initiating programs to meet those needs, Marpe said, and assuring that Westport residents know about and use the services available to them.

“As a result, Westport's Parks and Recreation Department now offers adaptive programs for children with special needs and its catalog incorporates preferred terminology as recommended by the CITF,” he said.

And, he added, the Town Plan of Conservation and Development includes a statement recommended by the CITF, that reads: “When provisions are made for public access, consideration shall be given to universal accessibility to insure that the needs of residents of all ages with disabilities of all kinds are addressed in order that they may participate fully in community life.”