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New mailboxes that have been installed in front of the Arlington Post Office at 10 Court St. will offer a more efficient and secure mailing process, but residents who are handicapped may have a hard time using them.
The new mailboxes feature a thin mail slot that requires mail to be pressed upwards into the box, as opposed to the previous boxes which either had a pull-down slot, or a tubular mouth which mail could be slid down into the box.
The new system has posed a problem for residents who have a mobility issue, because they can no longer be accessed from sitting in their vehicle. Residents who may require a wheelchair, crutches or another assisted device may not be able to easily exit their vehicle to push the mail upward into the slot, particularly in the winter time when sidewalks can be affected by snow and ice.
Steve Doherty, a spokesperson for USPS Massachusetts, said that the new boxes are designed first to avoid residents sticking packages that cannot be sent through mailboxes into the boxes.
“The mailboxes are part of our security program. In the old boxes, residents would stick packages in them, and if a package weighs more than 13 ounces, it cannot be sent through a mailbox. It needs to be brought to a window,” Doherty said. “We would collect those packages and they would have to be processed and returned to the sender. So by having the boxes only able to accept envelopes, we are making the process more efficient.”
Town officials said that while concerns about the abilities of the disabled to access these new boxes have been raised, it has been a federal decision to upgrade the security of the postal service.
“The issue has been brought up to the Disability Commission and I have spoken with the postmaster at the Arlington Post Office, and the new mailboxes are designed to combat an increase in thefts they have been having,” said Jillian Harvey, who serves as Arlington’s ADA coordinator. “This isn’t just something that has been happening in Arlington, Boston, Cambridge, and other towns are seeing these (upgrades).”
While handicapped residents may find it more challenging to use the new mail slots, the USPS remains ADA compliant because it still offers ways for handicapped residents to send mail. Residents can either bring their mail into the post office, which is handicapped compliant, or they can leave their stamped, outgoing mail in their own personal mailboxes, and their mail carrier can pick them up and bring them to the post office.
Doherty said that Massachusetts first began rolling out the new mailboxes in October, and that the plan is to eventually replace all of the mailboxes in the state, although he said there was no timeline on when that would happen, given the size of the project. Residents though should expect to see more of the new mailboxes coming into Arlington over the next few years.
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