Metropolitan Beach Commission Hearing Focuses on Language Barriers on Area Beaches

At last Wednesday’s Metropolitan Beach Commission meeting, Commission Co-Chair Rep. Adrian Madaro, who represents East Boston, made a shocking revelation about beaches in the area.

“In my district I’m blessed to represent an incredibly vibrant community and immigrant community and our diversity is our point of pride,” said Madaro. “I am fortunate to represent so many people of different ethnic backgrounds and perspectives. About 50% of our community is foreign born and many residents are non-native English speakers. Yet at Constitution Beach, East Boston’s only public beach and the only point of access to the water, the signage is only in English. This is true for other beaches in the area. These language barriers are quite concerning.”

Madaro’s testimony came at a Beach Commission hearing focused on language barriers on area beaches like the one in Eastie and here in Lynn.

“Language Access on our beaches entail providing critical safety information about water quality, weather conditions, upcoming activities and general beach safety knowledge,” continued Madaro. “Empowering residents with the ability to make informed decisions while at our beaches helps ensure overall public safety and enjoyment. This starts with ensuring that signage on our beaches is multilingual giving all the ability to read and understand the important information being shared. There’s a lot of work to make sure our public spaces, including our public beaches within the Commonwealth, reflect that all belong and all deserve access. Eliminating language barriers and ensuring language access at our beaches would be one major step in the right direction.”

Madaro’s Co-Chair Sen. Brendan Crighton of Lynn agreed, and was “inspired by the powerful testimony”. .

“We look forward to using this community input to make our beaches more equitable and inclusive for all people regardless of the language they speak,” said Crighton.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation will begin deploying multilingual signs “across our system, including of course, on all the Metropolitan beaches” beginning in 2022.

“Overcoming language barriers is a key issue,” said Executive Director of Save the Harbor/ Save the Bay Chris Mancini. “If we don’t have diversity in programs and signage on our beaches, folks will be forced to be spectators when they should be involved, active participants.”

At the hearing participants heard presentations on current and best practices for multilingual signage and websites. Save the Harbor/Save the Bay Policy Intern Caroline Adamson made a presentation about using QR codes on beach signage as one easy way to connect people to the multilingual resources they need. QR codes are already in use on signs at Revere Beach and elsewhere.

“Of the 250 signs we looked at across our Massachusetts coast, just four of them were in languages other than English,” said Director of Strategy and Communications of Save the Harbor/Save the BayBruce Berman. “That’s simply not good enough.”

Late last spring, the Commission decided to focus attention on ways to increase diversity, equity and inclusion on the Metropolitan Region’s public beaches, to improve access for people of color, people with disabilities, and people who may not speak English as their primary language. Last May, the Beach Commission heard from a diverse group of civic leaders and community members about ways in which we could increase diversity on the beaches and in our beach programming.

In November, the Beach Commission focused on ways to increase and improve access for people with disabilities on the Metropolitan Region’s public beaches. The most recent hearing focused on ways to overcome language barriers that prevent people from safely enjoying their beaches.

Acting DCR Commissioner Stephanie Cooper said in the end the DCR is focused on having its areas accessible and safe.

 “We also need to have signage and information that provides people with the rules and regulations,” she said. “What are the amenities? What do I need to know to enjoy the beach and be safe?” Cooper underscored the importance of the use of QR codes, observing that, “Save the Harbor/Save the Bay’s presentation highlighted some of where we are headed and some of the progress we still need to make. The great thing about a QR code is that you can provide a lot of information in all the languages that you want. Our plan is to use QR codes this year.”

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