Video meetings with remote participation are not only a beneficial way to allow for public participation in council meetings by all Waterville citizens, but they also provide an accommodation for those with a disability.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 covers federal contractors and programs receiving federal funds. Section 504 made it illegal for recipients of federal funds to discriminate on the basis of disability. The CDC has identified a number of medical conditions and other factors that can create a “higher risk for severe illness” if those individuals contract COVID-19. According to the CDC’s guidance, older adults and people who have serious underlying medical conditions fall into this high-risk category.

It appears that the city of Waterville, which is a recipient of federal funds, is unaware of their obligation to make reasonable accommodations for persons with a disability, which would include persons on the City Council. I was appalled at the line of personal questions that were permitted to be directed at some council members during the public meeting on Sept. 1, asking them to disclose the reason why they were continuing to only participate in council meetings by video while in the midst of a pandemic.

Video meetings are a 21st-century technology that Waterville city government needs to permanently adopt.

 

Diane Weinstein

Waterville


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