FAIR LAWN, NJ – What’s in a name? Quite a lot if you’re the Fair Lawn Access for All Committee.
“It’s so much more positive, don’t you think?” special education teacher and co-chair of the borough committee Sharon Bragin asked.
Her cohort and co-chair on the committee, Andrea Frankel, agreed.
“It’s more about what we do, what we’re all about,” Frankel said.
The Fair Lawn ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Committee has changed its name to Fair Lawn’s Access for All Committee.
“The Access for All Committee decided to change its name so their mission and function was more clear to the community,” Councilwoman Cristina Cutrone said. Not many people know what ADA stood for.”
And just like before, the mission of the committee is “to enhance the lives of individuals with various different abilities and to remove barriers and obstacles that hinder their everyday activities,” according to the borough’s website description.
“The Access for All Committee does such important work by advocating for the special needs community in Fair Lawn while also educating others about our residents with special needs and making changes to make us more inclusive, like the building of the inclusionary playground at Berdan Grove,” Cutrone said.
The two co-chairs are less formal about the whole thing. For them, it’s just about bringing people together and helping where help is needed.
Bragin grew up in Fair Lawn, as well as Frankel’s husband. Frankel is an occupational therapist and Bragin, who has been teaching at TJ Middle School for the last 15 years, was a student at TJ.
“We realized we had all kinds of connections to each other,” Frankel said. “It was a good fit.”
Bragin said an important component of the current committee are the Thomas Jefferson Middle School students who “are the real heart and soul of [the] volunteering.”
Bragin said “a few of the ones who went on to the high school have remained with [the group] and have taken on other responsibilities.”
Members of Thomas Jefferson Middle School support staff “help out a great deal, as do the teachers who come to volunteer at the dances,” Bragin said. “Not to forget those individuals who have served the committee with dedication and passion prior to us even getting on board.”
Whether the volunteers assist with activities, sit and color, or help at the several dances the committee hosts each year, it all provides a sense of camaraderie.
“When you’re at the dances, there is an immediate sense, right when you walk in, that you belong,” Bragin said. “There is a real sense of community there.”
Frankel nodded. “And we’re more than just the dances, that’s just one thing that we do.”
Frankel said they have made it their business as a committee to connect people to the proper authorities when it comes to getting help.
“If someone asks, for example, for a curb cut, we connect them with the proper person to speak to,” she said. “It gives people the sense they’re being heard, and they are being heard.”
In addition to the barrier-free, inclusionary playground at Berdan Grove, the committee was instrumental with the installation of handicap accessible doors at borough buildings, and the ongoing monitoring of the accessibility of the town's facilities, including sidewalks, parking lots, etc.
If interested in getting involved, contact the committee’s council liaison Cristina Cutrone at email@example.com.