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    Thomas Farragher

    No empathy for disabled on Beacon Hill

    This crosswalk in front of the State House.
    Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff/File
    This crosswalk in front of the State House.

    As we toured Beacon Hill the other day, Christine Griffin’s narration from her wheelchair made it clear that when it comes to obstacles for the disabled, my vision is impaired.

    Buckling bricks. Cracked pavement. Sloppily constructed curb cuts. A lamp post, just feet from the back wall of the State House, plopped down in the middle of the sidewalk.

    No problem for me. No problem for most of us. But Chris shook her head as she squeezed by. “Clearly illegal,’’ she said. And she should know. She’s the executive director of the Disability Law Center, whose offices are in the neighborhood.


    When we got to the intersection of Mount Vernon and Walnut streets, she threw up her hands. “Well, I’ve got nowhere to go here,’’ she said.

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    She was right. No curb cut. No ramp. No access.

    If the swells on Beacon Hill succeed in their clueless courtroom challenge, people like Chris Griffin will have to wait a long time to cross this street.

    Then a strange thing happened right there on the south slope of Beacon Hill. Chris, a tough and funny lawyer, began to shed tears. “Some of the anger and vitriol from them being forced to comply with federal law in their little haven up here is just remarkable,’’ she said.

    Remarkable. Yes. The Beacon Hill Civic Association has gone to court. They are up in arms because Mayor Martin J. Walsh is sending the jackhammers into their tony enclave and, you see, it’s impairing the area’s “unique and irreplaceable historic nature.’’


    Picture Thurston Howell III, peering from his third-floor solarium window, tut-tutting to his wife: “Lovey, that concrete is clashing with the curtains!’’

    That may be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

    Keeta Gilmore, board chairwoman of the civic group, insists that the neighborhood really, really wants to make Beacon Hill accessible. But the materials “are inappropriate.’’ Too much concrete. Not enough brick. “We would prefer that they hadn’t started construction,’’ she said.

    Oh, really? Tell that to people like Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, the courageous couple who each lost their left leg below the knee in the Boston Marathon bombing.

    Like everybody, Jess and Patrick appreciate efforts to preserve Boston’s architectural integrity and beauty. Beacon Hill under a blanket of freshly fallen snow is a beautiful thing worthy of a Currier & Ives engraving.


    But what’s happening now is more like Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.’’

    “I feel like a community can be judged on how it treats its injured and its less fortunate, and do they really want to be a community that values curb cuts over the dignity of people,’’ Jess told me. “Because that’s the message they’re sending.’’

    “It’s embarrassing,’’ Patrick added. “They make this argument about maintaining the Colonial-era beauty. I’d like to think that Sam Adams would be more welcoming and say we’ve got to make a change here to make sure people can access the beauty of Beacon Hill.’’

    Here are the four truest words of Marty Walsh’s young mayoralty: “This is just ridiculous.’’ He said that to me over the phone.

    Can you imagine the meeting where a group of smart, educated, supposedly cultured people sat around a conference table and decided it would be a great idea to take the city to court in the name of blocking progress for the disabled?

    So let’s sketch out their recovery in three easy parts. One, drop the lawsuit. Two, say goodbye to your public relations consultants. Three, take the money you were paying those handlers and make a contribution to Chris Griffin’s nonprofit or to the One Fund.

    I’ll even add a fourth: Buy some balloons and party hats and gather around the next jack-hammer crew to cheer as they cut into the curbs.

    If you’re too busy with your brie-and-white-wine garden parties to personally inscribe an invitation for Chris and Patrick and Jess, have your calligraphers do it for you.

    But if you’re determined to march into court, sorry, you’ve lost your way.

    Previous coverage:

    Vennochi: Walsh relishes payback in Beacon Hill dispute

    Beacon Hill group aims to stop disabled ramps

    Cullen: Walsh sides with the disabled over the entitled set

    Editorial: Beacon Hill commission should yield on ramps for disabled

    Other Boston neighborhoods have found compromise on ramps

    Thomas Farragher is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at thomas.farragher