New Lift Brings Disabled Access to Public Boating in Marblehead
Marblehead boaters with mobility limitations have a reason to cheer. Later this month, they and any visitors with disabilities to town will be able to safely board boats at the State Street landing in Marblehead. This new Hoyer Lift (known as a “sling lift”) will be the first of its kind in Marblehead’s publicly accessible harbor areas, and effective June 25, 2022, it will be available for anyone with any mobility challenges who wishes to board a boat.
Prior to volunteers with the Marblehead Disabilities Commission (“the Commission”) developing the plan, no public dock had accommodated people with disabilities with a sling lift. Thanks to the cooperation and planning of the Commission and Harbormaster Mark Souza, along with generous funding from the Mariner, Marblehead, that has now changed.
The Commission is composed of volunteer town residents. Two such volunteers–Amy Hirschkron and Sue Harris–were instrumental in spearheading the lift project, with the Commission serving in an advisory role. It all began when a private citizen suggested a lift to the Commission, noted Hirschkron, but was unable to proceed with making it happen due to prior commitments. Harris and Hirschkron agreed it was an excellent idea and decided to see if they could make it come to fruition. “The two of us educated ourselves [regarding] sling lifts and forged a relationship with the Marblehead Harbormaster–Mark Souza,” said Hirschkron. “Mark, it turned out, is also really committed to making the waterfront more accessible to disabled people.”
Knowing that Souza was in their corner, the women crafted a presentation for the Marblehead Harbors and Waters Board, where it was promptly approved. Considering who might be a good partner to help fund the project, they approached the Mariner, Marblehead. “We thought it was a good pairing, given that they are building a senior community in town,” said Hirschkron. Ultimately the Mariner agreed not only to underwrite the costs associated with the lift, but also to pay for future maintenance. “The use of the lift will be free of charge, and users can bring their own sling or use the one provided by [us],” said Donna Rice, a Marblehead resident who volunteered to assist with publicity-related matters.
The Commission invites the public to attend a dedication ceremony of the new lift on the morning of June 25 at 10:00 AM at State Street Wharf, where there will be light refreshments.
Members of the Committee are appointed by the Select Board, and work to ensure that the town carries out programs that enable full and equal participation in all aspects of life in Marblehead for people with disabilities. The Commission is committed to increasing public awareness of disability issues and to providing information and guidance regarding these issues to individuals, businesses, organizations, and public agencies.
The Commission meets every month via video conferencing, though it is planning hybrid or in-person meetings soon. All agendas are posted at marblehead.org the days prior to the meeting, with a Zoom link where applicable. The Commission welcomes any interested citizens to attend. Additional information may be found at marbleheadable.org.
Editor's Note: Marblehead Beacon updated the article to reflect the Commission's remote meetings as well as to make a correction regarding Ms. Rice. We had erroneously referred to her as being part of the Commission. She is not.