Skip to main content

Franklin - Local Town Pages

Franklin Station Renovates to Enhance Disability Access

Franklin’s Dean College Commuter Rail Stop was previously inaccessible to people using wheelchairs, but members of the Franklin community, including the Franklin Disability Commission, brought the issue to the attention of the MBTA. Keolis Commuter Services recently made improvements that enhance access for all.

By Maddie Miga
This year, a major change has been made to the Dean College Commuter Rail Stop on the Franklin line. The rail station now features a ramp that allows for easier access to the train platform. In doing so, those behind the update hope that this will allow the station to be more easily accessible for those with disabilities.
Keolis Commuter Services is responsible for operating the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) fourteen commuter rail lines. These stations can be found in both the Greater Boston region and Rhode Island. When asked about Keolis’s plan to improve disability access at these stops, the company stated that they “will be constructing accessible, freestanding mini-high platforms at several stations across our network. The design process for the platforms at Franklin Station, as well as Walpole, West Medford, and Wellesley Square Stations has been completed. We expect construction to be complete in early 2025, increasing network accessibility for our passengers.” In doing so, Keolis hopes that this project will reflect their “commitment to ensuring access to the Commuter Rail for everyone.”
One group that helped make this change possible was the Franklin Commission on Persons with Disabilities. This organization works to advocate for Franklin residents with disabilities, as well as educate others on different disabilities and issues. Mary O’Neill, Chair of this Commission, says that one way she and her fellow members are continuing to support those with disabilities is by “touring the recreation areas in town, making sure that they’re up to code and handicapped accessible.”
The lack of disability access was first brought to the Commission’s attention by a member of the Franklin community. O’Neill recounts how she and her fellow members “acted on this immediately” by sending letters to Philip Eng, the General Manager and CEO of the MBTA. After visiting the Dean College Commuter Rail Stop and getting to see its changes for the first time, O’Neill was extremely pleased with its turnout. She states that this station “is a Boston route. People enjoy going into the city, so it should be handicapped accessible. That’s the bottom line.” 
To the left of the rail station, Keolis has installed a ramp that makes it easier to go to and from the platform. The ramp is located to the left of the train station and is conveniently placed right next to the station’s handicapped parking spots. O’Neill spoke about how she knew some Franklin residents who felt challenged by the lack of disability access prior to the train station’s renovations. However, these updates will hopefully make the station more easily accessible for all passengers.
While the Commission was successful in making changes around disability access at the rail station, these members are continuing to advocate for accessibility rights. O’Neill believes that a recurring issue that those with disabilities face is centered around handicap parking. Non-disabled drivers parking in handicap spots has been a problem for years. Though trying to find a parking spot can be challenging at times, O’Neill advises that “if you don’t walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, you don’t know what other people go through.” She believes that this issue is due to a “lack of education,” and that “it’s wise to teach children when they’re young” what handicapped signs represent and their significance. 

Advocating for better disability access at the Dean College Commuter Rail Stop is just one way that the Commission on Persons with Disabilities has been helping their community. O’Neill and her fellow members have also made the town of Franklin more inclusive and accommodating through their annual Disability Expos. O’Neill shared how these events have helped educate “anybody who wants information on different disabilities,” such as mobility aids, mental health advocates, and autism-related organizations. 
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed. The law prohibits any sort of discrimination against those who are disabled, including transportation and public accommodations. O’Neill has been a citizen of the Franklin community since 1986 and is “happy and proud” of the improvements that have been made around disability access since first moving here. This new change at the Dean College Commuter Rail Stop is just one way that the Franklin community is continuing to improve and grow.