Julianne Gressley sat in a wheelchair in the front row of a small gathering March 3 to watch as a bench in front of Jefferson Healthcare hospital was dedicated in the memory of her son, Lynn …
Julianne Gressley sat in a wheelchair in the front row of a small gathering March 3 to watch as a bench in front of Jefferson Healthcare hospital was dedicated in the memory of her son, Lynn Gressley, who died in 2013.
Lynn Gressley, who was blind, made public officials see what it was like to have a disability. He often led officials blindfolded on walks around Port Townsend – and specifically, the Jefferson Healthcare campus – to show them how to improve access to public places.
“It’s just tremendous,” Julianne Gressley said after the bench had been dedicated by hospital officials and members of Disability Awareness Starts Here (DASH), a nonprofit that raised $2,000 to buy a permanent bench in front of the new Emergency and Specialty Services Building (ESSB).
Because it was raining, the dedication took place under tents outside in the cold. Hospital employees draped 97-year-old Julianne Gressley in hospital linens to keep her warm. She said she was pleased people came out to recognize her son.
IMPACT OF ONE
“What a day to bring together the community to recognize the impact community members can have in the usability and comfort of facilities,” said Jefferson Healthcare Chief Financial Officer Hilary Whittington.
Whittington, who is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator for the hospital, said that while DASH members were on a recent tour of the new building, they saw where possible improvements could be made and sent her a list of suggestions. One suggestion was to install “hearing loops” at certain desks to help those with hearing impairment.
“I think the bench looks wonderful and gives a place for pause,” Whittington said. “I tend to make a habit of stopping to sit in any bench I pass, because someone put it there on purpose.”
The bench DASH bought “provides a moment of rest and anchors the memory of Lynn Gressley and DASH right at the door of Jefferson Healthcare,” she said.
Whittington noted that she was pleased that the bench is situated right above a brick dedicated to her own grandparents.
Whittington also thanked Marion Huxtable, a member of DASH, who helped raise the funds for the bench.
Huxtable said DASH members found the new facility “fully accessible inside and outside.”
“Patients with disability problems, whether these are mobility or sensory challenges, will find that they can navigate through the building designed to minimize barriers,” Huxtable wrote.
Donors included George Randalls, Travis Rowland, Bonnie Bolster, Diane and Ruth Gressley, Susan Maret, Emily Mandelbaum, Earll Murman, Kees Kolf, Robin Ornelas, Rebecca Kimball.
Other donors were the Jefferson County Council of the Blind, Lesa Barnes, Mary Robson, Richard Berg, Dan and Lys Burden, Peter and Helen Lauritzen, John Austin, Richard and Betty Southard, Marion and Ryan Huxtable, Leesa Monroe, Jack and Carol McCreary, Sarah Grossman, Gary and Naomi Plueger, Jefferson Healthcare and the Hearing Loss Association of Jefferson County.
ACTIVE IN COMMUNITY
Gressley had worked with youths with disabilities before retiring to Port Townsend, where he was part of DASH, served on the Council for the Blind, was on the Jefferson Transit Advisory Board, and worked with other county and city departments on access issues.
Since it was started in 1999, DASH has been instrumental in improving access to streets, sidewalks, trails, paths, buildings and restrooms.
DASH has consulted for the City of Port Townsend, Jefferson County, the Port of Port Townsend, police and sheriff’s departments, Jefferson Healthcare, Fort Worden State Park, school districts and churches.
DASH also produced a map of Port Townsend that indicates where people who require mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, can use the devices. In addition, DASH offers a “disability friendly” guide to restaurants.