County Comment: Hendershot Meant Much to Community
Hendershot Meant Much to Community
by Norman Bassett, Public Information Officer
Washington County, Maryland
This week I'm writing wearing my "other hat", as coordinator of the Washington County Office on Disability Issues.
With the passing of Linn Hendershot, much has been said about his involvement with the community. Sadly, very little was said about his role with the community organization that advises the Board of County Commissioners on needs of citizens who have disabilities, and that story needs to be told.
In 1998, I met with Linn on a number of occasions to discuss accessibility problems that he had perceived since returning to Hagerstown and Washington County several years before. Together, we formulated the idea of the Washington County Disabilities Advisory Committee (DAC), as an advisory group to the Board of County Commissioners. Our group was patterned after a number of similar organizations across Maryland, and organized with the blessing of the (then) Governor's Office for Individuals with Disabilities.
With help from Commissioner Paul Swartz, we put together a representative group of individuals who had disabilities, family members of persons with disabilities and professionals who help provide services to the disability community, and the committee was formally chartered in 1999.
From day one, Linn's leadership, innovation and drive sparked the Committee's efforts to improve lives of our citizens with disabilities through advocacy for removal of those community barriers that make people work harder than others to live normal lives.
We accomplished many things, large and small, as a group. One of the most significant was a state grant for the "Boundless Playground" at Marty Snook Park. Linn and I worked together many hours writing that document and, with Paul Swartz and MIHI's Bill Beard, in moving the project to completion.
Linn served as Chair of the DAC until his election as Hagerstown City Councilman, when he assumed an ex-officio role. We welcomed him back to the Committee membership when his tenure on Council was over. During his stint with City Government, Linn effectively implemented barrier removal projects involving curb ramps at downtown intersections, improved accessibility in City Parks, and advocated for the "talking" crosswalk signs that were installed at the Square and elsewhere in the City.
Through his relationship with MIHI, Linn helped place accessible equipment in parks across Washington County. He was a great fan of fishing, and a number of accessible fishing piers were constructed in County and State parks. Accessible picnic tables and play equipment were donated to our parks through those efforts.
When DAC conducted the first countywide survey in needs of people with disabilities, he provided input. From that study came information that has contributed to the ongoing effort to improve transportation for people with disabilities in the county.
His advocacy efforts were recognized nationwide, and he was recipient of grants and awards for his work in that area. Linn and DAC put elected officials and administrators in wheelchairs, and asked them to do their normal days' work. The exercise raised awareness of the difficulties that people who have disabilities face in every-day activities, and served to reinforce the need for removal of barriers to accessibility.
He was always reminding us that laws and codes are set to minimal standards and do not change quickly enough to keep up with changes in the technology designed to provide aid. His most recent cause was to have housing built to greater than current standards when it came to hallway width, at-grade entrances and bathrooms large enough to provide turnaround space for larger wheelchairs. "Visitability" is a national movement to create new houses so that all people, including those who have disabilities, can come to visit with ease. He played a large role in training architects and homebuilders in this area, and planned to move the effort into the legislative arena in Maryland.
Linn's positive attitude, dedication to advocacy of the civil rights of all people, and sense of humor will be greatly missed by the DAC and the community as a whole.