ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Columbia was recognized as the Best City for People with Disabilities in Maryland by WalletHub, the personal finance outlet, ranking 4th in the nation. WalletHub compared 182 cities — including the 150 most populated U.S. cities, plus at least two of the most populated cities in each state — across three key dimensions: economy, quality of life, and health care.
In recent years, we have made investments so that residents of all ages and abilities can thrive, such as adding 150 additional special education teachers this year, building accessible housing or implementing programs to ensure that vaccines are available to all. It is gratifying to receive national recognition for our work, and we will continue our efforts to make our playgrounds, trails, transportation system and more the best in the country, for all our residents.
During the past four years, Howard County has provided resources to building Patuxent Commons, a major housing project that is a national model for housing adults with disabilities; opened Laura’s Place, a first-of-its-kind playground that embraces inclusive activities for all; and upgraded its website to include full content accessibility.
To determine the most livable places for people with disabilities, WalletHub compared more than 180 most populated cities across 34 indicators of disability-friendliness. The “economy” category included factors such as housing affordability and the poverty rate of people with disabilities. The “quality-of-life” ranking included measurements of wheelchair access for restaurants, stores, and trails, as well as number of special education teachers and other factors. “Health care” rankings included COVID vaccination rates and numbers of occupational therapists.
Columbia ranked in the top 10 nationally in both the economy and quality of life categories.
“Howard County has made great strides to enhance accessibility throughout the community, offering employment, recreational, health and wellness opportunities for individuals living with disabilities,” said Jacqueline Scott, Director, Howard County Department of Community Resources and Services. “It is great to be recognized for these accomplishments, as we continue to make Howard County more accessible to all, regardless of age or ability.”
“Howard County Recreation & Parks is committed to improving the quality of life for people with disabilities by providing community recreational and leisure opportunities that promote lifelong skills. We offer accommodations and support so that everyone may participate in our events and programs,” commented Director of Recreation & Parks A. Raul Delerme. “We have created a play-for-all playground that includes equipment with zero-entry-merry-go-rounds so an individual can wheel onto the platform. We are outfitting our parks with augmented communication boards for non-verbal park goers and are encouraging other recreation and parks agencies to do the same. Working closely with our stakeholders has enabled us to meet our diverse community needs and provide equitable recreation and leisure for all.”
“The County's Housing Opportunities Master Plan that was completed last year recommends increasing the number of affordable and accessible units, as well as improving the processes for residents to access those units,” said Kelly Cimino, Director, Howard County Department of Housing and Community Development. “The collaboration between the County, the housing advocates and developers like Mission First and Enterprise Community Development demonstrates the County's continued commitment to inclusive housing communities.”
“In this day and age, it is critical for our residents to be able to easily and quickly get information. Technology brings us one step closer to making this happen,” said Brandee Ganz, Director, Department of Technology and Communications. “As we redesigned our website, we focused on making it more modern, user friendly and accessible. These are just some of the ways we are able to help those with disabilities have access to information.”
“Our Complete Streets policy provides the framework to ensure safe and convenient transportation options for residents of all ages and abilities who travel by foot, bicycle, public transportation or automobile,” said Bruce Gartner, Administrator, Howard County Office of Transportation. “Coupled with our continuing investment in both infrastructure improvements and public transit, this policy fosters an environment filled with many options for our community members with disabilities.”